Thanksgiving Reflections

Today is the day we in the United States have set aside as a national day of Thanksgiving. The day originated with the Pilgrims who after a hard winter and with help from a tribe of American Indians were able to have a fruitful harvest.  The Pilgrims drew from there concepts for Thanksgiving from the Biblical festival of Sukkot (as noted here.) They were truly thankful for the blessings that occurred.

    It was President Abraham Lincoln who officially set aside the last Thursday in November as a day of giving thanks on October 3, 1863.  There were a number of factors that led to this declaration. It is interesting to note, that President Lincoln did make the declaration before the strife of the Civil War came to an end.  In fact, both the original Thanksgiving and the declaring of the National Holiday came amidst times of great suffering and hardship.  The original Thanksgiving came at the end of a hardship as the Pilgrims finally had a fruitful harvest.  The Thanksgiving day declaration came a one of the darkest times in the history of the United States of America.

     Generally when people give thanks, it is a time where there is reflection on the blessings, the joys, the good things that have happened.  It is often a focus on the areas in life that have been fruitful.  Biblically, being thankful and having gratitude is about more then just blessings.  It is even more then having blessings after times of hardship.   Biblically, being thankful and having gratitude is an important discipline and attitude to develop.

      Biblically we are directed to “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4)  and “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2). It means we need to be thankful regardless of our circumstance, for it is not our circumstances that are the reason for our Thanksgiving, but our Thankfulness of God’s presence in our life.  

      Granted, it is easy to say and hard to do.  We have great difficulty being thankful for everything. We have difficulty considering trials pure joy. We have trouble simply being thankful and rejoicing in an ongoing basis.  Part of the reason for this is we get caught up in our lives, our desires, our expectations and get upset when things don’t go our way.  We get critical when expectations fail and others let us down.  We are in essence wrapped up in ourselves.  Yet, God offers us better.  He offers us the way of peace in the midst of whatever comes our way.  It starts with the discipline of gratitude. It starts with being thankful, regardless. 

    Two central emotional problems of the day run contrary to an attitude and practice of thankfulness.  Both depression and anxiety have roots that stem from an inability to be thankful regardless of circumstances.  We much rather at times hold onto our fears and pains.  Being thankful for our real and perceived wounds is perhaps even harder for each of us then forgiving the offenders. Yet, we are Biblically called to develop a thankful attitude.  The central reason being is that he have a certainty that no matter what happens, we are assured of the love and grace of God.  We have been blessed with the gift of Salvation and have entered the Kingdom of God and have inheritance as God’s adopted sons. Yet, we so easily focus on the momentary things of this life, on our desires, wants, and needs.  We lose sight of the eternal.  For it is in the eternal that any of us have any ability to be thankful during the worst and darkest times of our lives.  Yet, we focus on the temporary, chase after whatever means of coping in order to simply survive.  We do anything but rejoice.  

     The fact is we will suffer, we will lose jobs, we will have chronic pain, we will be hurt, expectations will fail, desires will go unmet, and fears will be realized.  We lose sight of the temporariness of the things of this life and lose focus on eternal.  We like Peter see the waves and take our eyes off of Jesus, resulting in our sinking in the sea of emotions that lead away from thankfulness. The Pilgrims drew from Sukkot in celebrating Thanksgiving. Sukkot reminds us of our stay in this world being temporary, and that what God has ahead outweighs any suffering or difficulty in this life, it is just a matter of what our focus is on.

    So on this Thanksgiving day, there is a challenge before each of us to take into our daily lives.  A challenge to develop an ongoing attitude of Thanksgiving in spite of circumstances.  There are numerous circumstance each of us can focus on that result in fear, anger, worry, sadness and countless other emotional responses.  The challenge for each of us, is to be thankful regardless of how we feel or regardless of our circumstances.  Yet, many of us will not be able to do so of our own strength.  When you are not able to be thankful due to chronic pain, job fears, fears about government, relational conflicts, unmet expectations, and the range of other drains on being thankful, simply pray and ask God to help you to be thankful.  When we are weak He is strong, and if we are not able to follow, God will give us what we ask, when ask.  God wills us to be thankful, so you can be assured that when you ask to be able to rejoice always, God will set this free in your life, and your level of true peace will increase.  



2 Responses

  1. Great insight.

    As I read the line in one of Keith Greens songs came to mind.

    “Alive to Him and dead to me” If we could truly live dead to self but alive to our Lord we would rejoice in all things.

  2. NOV.24,2009 Wonderful word

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