Thanksgiving is coming oh so quick (Nov. 27 to be exact!). Have you panicked yet? Have you…sent your dinner invitations…dug out your Thanksgiving napkins and decorations…bought a ham or turkey…candied your yams? Or made your travel plans to visit family and started obsessing about the weather potentially disrupting those plans? Sometimes Thanksgiving feels like a list that goes on…and on…and on. When did Thanksgiving morph into an onerous collection of assorted tasks?
Thus it’s all too easy during Thanksgiving to accidentally skip doing the most important thing: to give thanks! But isn’t that the nature of the problem? We straddle one day with too much importance, don’t we? According to the Holy Scriptures “thanks giving” is a way of life. 1 Thessalonians 5:16—18 says “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” One day is not enough! It’s better to thank God ALL the time in ALL circumstances.
But don’t stop there: move from thanksgiving to praise and adoration. In Letters to Malcolm, C.S. Lewis writes, “Gratitude exclaims…‘How good of God to give me this.’ Adoration says, ‘What must be the quality of that Being whose far-off and momentary coruscations are like this!’ One’s mind runs back up the sunbeam to the sun.”
We see this pattern of thanksgiving moving into praise all over the Psalms. For example Psalm 103 says “Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name…The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love” (vss. 1, 8). Psalm 136:1 says, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.”
Well, what if you don’t feel like thanking God or praising God? Perhaps you are going through a season of pain or deprivation. Maybe your heart is heavy because God hasn’t met your expectations or answered your prayers. Author and Pastor Tim Keller reframes it this way: “God is not going to give you something that is bad for you, just like I, as a father, wouldn’t give my children something they ask for if they don’t realize it would not be safe and they would probably hurt themselves. J.I. Packer in his book on prayer (Praying: Finding our Way through Duty to Delight) actually says that ultimately there is no such thing as unanswered prayer…we might ask for something that is just not good for us, and God, being a good Father, tries to give us what we would have asked for if we knew everything he knew…” He’s suggesting we can even thank God for our struggle and our lack, because ultimately that points to God’s goodness!
So forget waiting until New Year’s to make your resolutions! This Thanksgiving burn your “to-do” list and refocus on the true meaning of Thanksgiving: resolve by God’s grace to make thanksgiving a way of life; resolve to praise God for his nature and character; and resolve to thank and praise Him even for what you don’t have!