Being Thankful. Seriously?

Isn’t it fascinating how people speak of Thanksgiving? Or more specifically being thankful? We are accustomed to hearing athletes being thankful after winning a big game. Or people speaking of being thankful for a promotion. Or after receiving a great award.

We may have also heard people sarcastically saying “thanks a lot” when something bad happens in their life. Somehow, it seems intuitive to be thankful when things are going our way. But where is God when they’re not going our way? Are we supposed to be thankful when things are tough?

The First Thanksgiving

The first Thanksgiving was observed in 1621 by those Pilgrims who had survived the brutal first winter after the Mayflower landed at Plymouth. Nearly half had died due to disease, starvation, or the harsh conditions.  

Ninety Native Americans and 53 Colonists came together to thank God for His mercy and grace in sustaining them and providing the first harvest that would get them through the coming winter.  Surely they weren’t thankful for the suffering they had endured or the loved ones they had lost, but they were thankful for God’s goodness and faithfulness in sustaining them through their trials.

Perhaps the key to understanding thankfulness is found in 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

The key word in this passage is “in.” We are to give thanks in all things, not necessarily for all things.  God certainly doesn’t ask or expect us to be thankful for illness or tragedy or drunk drivers or suffering, but we can certainly thank Him in and through those times. In fact it is often in and through difficulty that we have the opportunity grow spiritually if we respond correctly.  

Finding Something to Be Thankful For

It is during those times that we can find promises in God’s Word that we can hold onto. We thank Him that “all things work together for good (not that all things are good) to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.” Thanking Him that “nothing can separate us from His love.” And that “in all of these things we are more than overcomers” (Romans 8:28-39).

We can choose to “count it all joy as we go through various trials, knowing that the testing of our faith produces patience.” (James 1:2-3). Technically speaking, joy and happiness are very different things.

Happiness is based on circumstances, which can be very fleeting. Joy is based on our personal, intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus which is steadfast and unchangeable.  

Our circumstances may not change but by choosing to see them through the Truth of God’s Word, we can be thankful to God that the glass is half full instead of complaining that it is half empty.

Perception is the Key to Thankfulness

Facts are facts but how we interpret the facts is huge.  By interpreting the facts of our circumstances through a heart that is grateful for God’s mercy and grace in the midst of the storms, we can be certain that He will lead us through those storms.  

In His presence, we find His perfect peace that passes all understanding, in spite of our circumstances. Our Lord promised us that there will be storms in this life.

Choosing to be thankful in those storms will keep our focus on Him. This allows us to walk on the very waves of our circumstances in His perfect peace and joy, and not sink beneath those waves succumbing to hopelessness and despair.

Wishing you a most Joyful Thanksgiving!