Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because it brings people together for fellowship, fun, and food. Also it focuses people on giving thanks to God for his bountiful blessings.
During difficult times it might seem awkward or foreign to offer thanks, but every day you can find something to be sincerely grateful for. Even challenges and suffering can have redeeming value if they build your character and move you closer to God. James, the brother of Jesus, encouraged Christians who suffered because of their relationship with God, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4). Many studies have shown how gratitude helps combat anxiety, stress, depression, and fear. It also improves your relationships because honor, recognition, appreciation, and acknowledgement of what’s good, right, true, and positive unites people. Whereas complaints, negativity, nagging, bitterness, resentment, cutdowns, and disrespect drive people away. It’s no wonder throughout the Bible people are encouraged to thank, praise, rejoice, sing, celebrate, and commemorate. For instance, “I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. I will glory in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together. I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame” (Psalm 34:1-5) or “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
The United States has a heritage of giving thanks during difficulty. The first year after landing in America, the pilgrims shared a meal with the Wampanoag tribe and gave thanks to God for his provision even though it was hard for them to survive in the New World. In 1777, during the Revolutionary War, all thirteen colonies held thanksgiving celebrations. In 1863, amidst the turmoil of the Civil War, President Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday of November as a national holiday and invited Americans to thank and praise God for his providence and mercy. Here is a portion of Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation, written by Secretary of State, William Seward.
“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies…In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union…They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.”
Today, nearly 160 years later, America still faces challenges and we still need to give thanks. Our world is plagued by a virus, our nation is divided, our democracy is under siege by globalists, families are struggling, and people are hurting. Will we find answers in a charismatic leader, a political party, a new government, a scientific breakthrough, or a clever philosophy? No, we cannot sufficiently solve our problems, because our self-centered brokenness is the cause and we have no cure within ourselves. Our hope and our answers rest in God alone. Although our nation has rejected him in many ways, God has not given up on us. It’s not too late to turn to him. He is graciously calling you from your way of doing things into a life of trusting and obeying Jesus. As you do that and I do that and anyone else does that, individually and collectively we will experience salvation, healing, unity, blessing, and joy that only God bestows.
So today and each day I want to have a tender heart toward God which thanks him for his grace and provision. I want to quickly confess any wrongdoing or selfish attitude. I humbly desire to depend on his power and wisdom. And I seek to love him and others so they might enter into a saving relationship with God also. Will you join me in living gratefully?