Thanksgiving Day is coming, ready or not! Recently deceased turkeys are waiting in refrigerators across the land, while some live turkeys are wiping their brows, hoping they might have gotten a reprieve for another year. Pumpkin pies are baking; cans of yams being snatched off grocery store shelves before supplies run out; Christmas parade floats nearing completion; and football fans already making their own game plans for coordinating festive dinners with their favorite gridiron clashes.
And some people are even giving serious thought to what they will be thankful for this year.
Although the annual holiday doesn’t officially arrive until later this week, that doesn’t mean we can’t feel or express gratitude before we gather with friends and family around a table, salivating over the eagerly anticipated feast.
It’s always a good time to think about – and practice – the act of being thankful.
In fact, we’re urged to maintain a continual attitude of thankfulness. In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 we find one of Bible’s direct, yet profound verses: “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I like how another translation puts it: “in everything give thanks.”
Now some of us might argue, in one respect or another, that it’s hard to be thankful for everything. Perhaps you’ve suffered the loss of a loved one over the past year or experienced serious financial setbacks. Maybe your own health has been a struggle. It could be challenges encountered on the job, or family issues that seem beyond resolution. Are we supposed to be thankful for those things, too?
We can find no better example than Job in the Bible’s Old Testament. A wealthy and prominent citizen, he suffered an incredible series of personal tragedies, including the loss of property and livestock, deaths of his children, and severe health maladies. His wife, understandably chagrined by the chain of events, didn’t think her husband should feel thankful. Obviously lacking the spiritual gifts of mercy or encouragement, she didn’t mince words: “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!”
Job’s response, despite grave adversity that seemed unending and beyond explanation, was amazingly simple and humble: “…Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:9-10). Good question!
Hopefully, as you read this many positive blessings come to your mind. Despite the continuing flood of negative news, perhaps the past year has been one of your very best. If so, that’s wonderful. However, even in times of hardship, thankfulness is not only possible – it’s also essential.
For one thing, we have the promise of Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” When facing difficulties, we might not always understand the “why” of what’s happened, but we can trust in the Lord’s goodness, love and sovereignty. He wants what’s best for us, even if it doesn’t seem that way at the time.
As we read in Jeremiah 29:11, God declares, “For I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” And as a Babbie Mason song reminds us, “When you don’t understand, when you don’t see His plan, when you can’t trace His hand…trust His heart.”
Even though thanksgiving should be an ongoing habit year-round, I appreciate having an annual reminder built into our calendar. Besides the United States, thanksgiving holidays are observed in countries such as Brazil, Canada, Grenada, St. Lucia, Liberia and the Philippines; similar festival holidays are held in Germany, Japan and other nations.
Colossians 3:15-17 gives us a good description of what it might look like to cultivate and express our thankfulness, not only to God directly but also with one another:
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
This year, I hope we can all join in thanksgiving, not only around the dinner table as we pray, but also with uplifting words and songs, expressing gratitude to our Creator and Sustainer, our Savior and Lord, for who He is and all that He does in our lives, even in ways we do not understand.
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Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly published, ”Marketplace Ambassadors”; “Business At Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace”; “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” A weekly business meditation he edits, “Monday Manna,” is translated into more than 20 languages and sent via email around the world by CBMC International. The address for his blog is www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com. His email address is email@example.com.