When it comes to the temperature of a room, we commonly use two devices. One is a thermometer, telling us what the temperature is. The other’s the thermostat, which controls what we desire the temperature to be. Similarly, for our everyday lives, we can choose to be one or the other.
We see lots of people acting like thermometers, reflecting the “temperature” around them, whether it’s beliefs, attitudes, or social behavior. Like walking into an extremely warm room, or the frigid outdoors, they soon become just like the environment surrounding them. But other people function more like thermostats, being influencers of their environments rather than becoming “influenc-ees.”
This is important as we approach another Thanksgiving Day.
Later this week, many of us will gather with family and friends for a lavish meal. Turkey or ham may be the featured attraction, accompanied by mashed potatoes, yams, cranberry sauce, various casseroles, bread and rolls, followed by pumpkin or pecan pie. The menu varies from home to home, but surrounded by such abundance, it’s easy to feel thankful in the moment. Prayers around the table before we dig in confirm that.
But what about the weeks leading up to the holiday? Or the days after? How thankful are we then? This is where we can choose our role – thermometer, or thermostat.
We can all think of reasons for not feeling thankful, some of us more than others. It could be a chronic, or even terminal, illness we or a loved one may be facing. Financial pressures might seem unrelenting. Personal conflicts may be resistant to resolution. You can add to the list from your own situation. The onslaught of negative news nationally and internationally tends to reduce the “thankfulness quotient.” Nevertheless, the Scriptures give us these challenging words: “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
This verse doesn’t tell us to be thankful in some circumstances, or even most of them. We’re told to give thanks in all circumstances. As a friend of mine often says, when the Bible says “all,” it means ALL. Even if we find there’s too much month left at the end of our pay, we’re to be thankful. Even when the physician gives us a diagnosis we don’t like, we’re to give thanks. Even when we’ve been wronged, and it appears there’s been no justice against the wrongdoer, God wants us to have an attitude of thanksgiving anyway.
Thousands of years ago, King Solomon recorded his quest for happiness and ultimate gratification. His findings are recorded in the Old Testament book we call Ecclesiastes. Much of what he concluded is pretty dismal: “Meaningless! Meaningless!… Utter meaninglessness! Everything is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 1:2) is how he starts off, repeating it often over the succeeding chapters.
He doesn’t sound very thankful, does he? Solomon was called the wisest man of all time, possessing more wealth than anyone could imagine. If he couldn’t find reason to give thanks in all circumstances, how can we be expected to do so?
But not everything the king wrote was discouraging. His pursuit of pleasure and prosperity did give him much-needed perspective. Because he also realized, “I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil – this is the gift of God” (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13).
At the end of his writings, Solomon added this summary: “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). He seemed to be saying that if we keep the Lord foremost in our lives and our thoughts, He will give us more than we need for living a thankful life.
And in the New Testament, we discover an even greater “gift from God.” Ephesians 2:8-9 assures all who trust in Him, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Salvation, forgiveness for our sins, reconciliation with God – and the faith to believe we have all this – are more than enough cause for giving thanks, not only on Thanksgiving Day but also every day, regardless of our current circumstances.
As we express and live out our thanksgiving despite the situations in which we must live, we can serve as “thermostats” for those around us, creating an environment of thankfulness for others to experience.
Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly re-published, “Business At Its Best,” “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. To read more of Bob Tamasy’s writings, you can visit his blog, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com, or his website (now being completed), www.bobtamasy-readywriterink.com. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.