Many families maintain a Thanksgiving tradition of going around the table laden with turkey and fixin’s and having everyone share what they are thankful for. The responses are usually predictable: “I am thankful for my family, my home, my friends, my job, my good health . . . and of course the food!”
Indeed, we should be thankful for all those things. But this year, I’m challenging myself to go a bit deeper in my gratitude.
I Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NASB) says to “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
In everything? Other versions of the Bible say “in all circumstances,” (NIV); “no matter what happens” (MSG). This deepens the scope of thankfulness to well beyond “good things” and pleasant situations.
But surely it doesn’t mean we should be thankful for bad things, does it? I don’t believe so. However, it does provide a call to be thankful in the midst of, and in spite of, the difficulties of life.
Here are some things I’m choosing to thank God for this Thanksgiving:
Thank you, Lord, for trials. Difficult situations are by nature unpleasant, yet they are the “Miracle Grow” that causes our character and faith to blossom. In addition, they cultivate sensitivity to others who are going through similar situations, and equip us to be an encouragement to them. A rough stretch can also supersize our thankfulness when we reach brighter times. After a devastating house fire, I am all the more appreciative of the roof over my head. Following several years of serving in a toxic work environment, I thank God continually for my current place of employment where I am treated with kindness and respect.
Thank you, Father, for weaknesses and limitations. My chronic health challenges are a constant reminder of my physical weakness. Yet they also cause me to rely on God daily for strength, which is an enriching and soul-fortifying experience I might miss if I could operate in my own power. Although my health issues narrow the scope of activities I can pursue, my “limitations” also help define the areas God does wants me to focus on (like writing this blog)!
Thank you, God, for what I’ve been denied. Life is filled with constant reminders of what I don’t have. Even scrolling down the newsfeed on Facebook can be tough as my friends gush about their perfect mates, talented children and adorable grandkids. In moments where all I can see are the “good things” I’ve missed, I renew my trust in God. I choose to believe in His bigger plan and purposes. I remember that I am set apart for His service (not set aside). When I reflect on what I haven’t experienced, I’m also thankful for what I’ve been spared from. Only God knows the heartache, injury and loss that I’ve been protected from throughout my life.
Thank you, Jesus, for the future. As the saying goes, “I don’t know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future.” Though life is certain to hold a combination of joys, blessings, trials, limitations and denials, I am grateful that I can trust God to be with me through whatever lies ahead. He will supply all my needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus. And when it’s time to enter eternity, where every tear will be wiped away, I can’t wait to thank my Savior in person.
As the aroma of turkey fades from the air, I encourage you to join me in maintaining a more comprehensive view of thanksgiving, not just this holiday weekend, but all year long!
“For everything that has been, thank you, and for everything that will be, yes!” – Dag Hammarskjold, former United Nations Secretary General
“Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.” 1 Chronicles 29:13 (NIV)
“I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.” Psalm 9:1 (NIV)
“Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” Psalm 106:1 (NIV)
“But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” I Corinthians 15:57 (NIV)