When I mention the words “Give Thanks” most people instantly think of Thanksgiving. They think of the holiday that we have turkey or some variation of that. They may think of pilgrims and such. The problem is that giving thanks is not something that we do during one time of the year…or at least we shouldn’t. It isn’t something that we only do as we sit around a table of turkey and fixins. Giving thanks is a way of life. Living a thankful life is quite different than the celebration once a year.
So, let’s begin with a simple exercise…name 5 things you are thankful for…I would dare say that most of us hit some of the big themes. I know that’s what kids often do. They hit the big safe things they know they should be thankful for. You know the big safe things like family, church, food, shelter. We think of those things because some member of our family is near us at the time. We like to pick food because we thinking about how we are hungry at that moment. We think of church because we are sitting there. But, it really is hard to wrap our minds around being thankful for things we have always had. For example, if we had been homeless, we would be more likely to be truly thankful for a place to live.
Keeping that in mind, let’s read a familiar scripture that I want you to open your hearts and minds to today…1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Paul is writing in this letter to the people an important message. He is telling them to rejoice, pray, and give thanks. If anyone had reason to go around moping, it was Paul. He can tell the people to rejoice, pray and give thanks because he does. He can tell them that this is possible because he is doing it despite horrible circumstances.
For me, praying, rejoicing, and giving thanks all go hand-in-hand. When we pray, we realize that we have an Almighty God listening and taking care of us, which causes us to rejoice and be thankful. Today, I want to look at thankfulness and what that means.
Paul wrote to give thanks in everything. I find that hard to swallow. It is His will. That tells me that this is part of our calling and so, it is something we have to look a little more into.
First, I would be the first to admit that we have no problem giving thanks for the good things. We can pick out something good and go with it. We can even turn something ‘bad’ into ‘good’. We trick our own minds by thinking that we can give thanks that we didn’t have to run into such and such or that we didn’t have to sit with … We can pick something fairly easily that we are thankful for. If we really look at it though, we find that we are picking earthly things…things of our convenience to be thankful for.
So, how do we give thanks in the problems of our lives? How do we give thanks in the things that upset us or turn our world upside down? I am not saying that when something bad happens, we immediately thank God that something bad has happened.
Here is what I am trying to say though. Through my Dad’s journey, lives have changed. His life has changed, my family’s life has changed, people have heard the story. He is still struggling. The doctors tell us he will likely fight this for the rest of his life. However, he is still proclaiming God and people are still hearing. He is still fighting and people are still watching. We are not God…and I am so thankful for that. We will never see the full perspective of why things happen like God does. I’m not saying that God gives people bad circumstances, but I am saying that He works all things together for our good. I’m not saying that God goes around and causes horrible things to happen for a lesson, but I am saying that He gives us the strength and peace to overcome and that He knows how to use what has happened for our good. We live in a moment. We are but a speck and so we often miss the bigger picture.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote:
Earth is crammed with heaven
And every common bush aflame with God
But only those who see will take off their shoes
The rest sit around and pluck blackberries
If don’t have tribulations, we don’t know what it is like to live without them. If we aren’t faced with adversity, we don’t know how to overcome adversity. If we have struggled and we see a brother or sister struggling, we can love and encourage them through it. If we have suffered, we can understand someone else who is there. If we have overcome problems, we know how to show others to overcome problems. All things work together for His good.
Thanksgiving is long gone. Today, my challenge for you is to continue to find what you really are thankful for. Think of those struggles and tough times. Use what God has brought you through to help someone else. There are lots of burning bushes…lots of moments where God is there and calling you. Will you take off your shoes or will you pass on by? He works all things together for HIS GOOD. Don’t ever forget…God is in control…ALWAYS!