Thanksgiving can change our lives! I’m talking about more than a day on our calendar, of course, but I’m referring to a heart posture which can revolutionize how we see the world – and how we see our own circumstances.
God is good. That’s a given. God deserves our thanks. That’s also a given. But, as quickly as I can acknowledge both of those things to be true, I’m also able to identify my own reluctance to thank God as I should. I’m admitting that sad fact right here, and right now, on Thanksgiving Eve.
American Greetings did some market research and discovered that most Americans – three out of five – aren’t even interested in thinking about thanksgiving. They’re all for the turkey and dressing, and maybe the football, but would rather take a pass when it comes to inventorying their manifold blessings. In short, we’re more ungrateful than we might have imagined. My suspicion is that it’s all too easy for Christ followers to fall right in line when it comes to this epidemic of ingratitude. I need to hear my grandmother’s voice again: “Count your blessings.”
Here’s a game-changer, friends (First Thessalonians 5:16-18): Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
“Rejoice always?” Why would God command me to do something that He knows I won’t – and in fact can’t – do? I mean, for goodness’ sake, I’m likely to pout or make a snarky remark (at least in my head) before I finish this blog posting. Here’s why God raises the bar, I think: He wants His standards to prove me a sinner so that I’ll never forget my need for a Savior!
So I can’t let my weakness drive me to despair – though it has the potential to do so if I don’t rehearse the gospel on a regular basis – but I must lean into Jesus for the spirit of rejoicing that I can’t manufacture on my own. My sanctification really is, at its core, Christ’s life lived in and through me (and many days in spite of me). Imagine this: I can look to my Lord to produce the rejoicing in me when my joy-tank has run dry. How marvelous! The same is true when I’ve lost my will to pray. And the same must be true when my thanksgiving meter isn’t pointing in a positive direction.
Here’s why it matters: thanksgiving changes everything! But here’s the deal: I don’t have to feel thankful before I can start thanking God. In fact, sometimes I have to thank God before I’ll have any “thankful” feelings at all. When I do express what I know to be true about God’s goodness – and just start thanking Him despite my cruddy feelings (or lack thereof), God never fails to begin to give me glimpses of His glory sprinkled against the backdrop of whatever situation seems to be dragging me down.
I need that right now. Do you? Let me give you an example from my little corner of the world: I’m upset about government overreach, and the perceived loss of our liberties. Is it as bad as I think it is? Probably not, since I’m the emotional creature that I am, but this COVID-19 craziness can feel downright suffocating if I stay too long away from the fount of living water! And that’s just one of multiple concerns on my current radar screen. I’ll bet you have a panoramic radar screen too. My point is: there are lots of reasons why thanksgiving might escape us this year – right now – if we don’t purpose to seek the Lord for the work of grace in us that each one of us so desperately needs.
Though I don’t always do it perfectly, friends, I’m telling you that there’s tremendous power in what I’m sharing with you today. Thanksgiving is more than a duty. It’s more than a list of blessings. It’s more than a holiday. Thanksgiving is profound spiritual victory in your life and mine! In an age of ingratitude and self-absorption and practical atheism, genuine thanksgiving smashes our idols, renews our zeal for Christ, and restores our sagging souls. I would submit to you that Satan’s strongholds in our lives are diminished when we look up to God with a thankful heart, because real thankfulness – especially during a season of difficulty like the one we’re in now – is a sacrificial attitude which is simply and sweetly pleasing to our gracious Lord.
And He is so worth it. So, so worth it.
We all know that the trappings of the holiday won’t look the same this year. Most of us, by and large, have accepted that by now. Perhaps, though, the thanksgiving which we’ll experience in 2020 will be a taste of something even better.