Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (I Thess. 5:16-18)
I have always loved the Thanksgiving Holiday, and have many wonderful memories surrounding it. I hope you do, as well.
As you well know, Thanksgiving in the USA can be traced all the way back to the Pilgrims, as they celebrated their first harvest in 1621. What made that harvest so memorable and worthy of celebration to the Pilgrims and their Native American friends? It wasn’t because things had come so easy—it was because things had been so costly!
Were the Pilgrims in 1621 thriving, or simply surviving? Were they celebrating with a backdrop of ease and comfort, or difficulty and pain?
The historically accurate answer is: surviving during great loss and pain. The Pilgrims were sincere and devout followers of Christ Jesus, yet that did not spare them from horrific suffering as half of those who came from England died before that first thanksgiving…
I and many others have discovered the truth that the Pilgrims must have known: giving thanks to the Living Lord amongst pain, suffering, confusion, and loss is a deeper and richer place of Thanksgiving than what happens in an atmosphere of over-abundance and ease…
In fact—and I share this with some embarrassment—when things have been easy, anything resembling Thanksgiving to God has often been reduced to the superficial… or not-at-all. Truth is, I have spent whole seasons of my life so blessed and comfortable that giving thanks has been almost non-existent….
Isn’t that backwards?
Seemingly, it is. When things are great, we SHOULD be flat on our faces crying out our thanks and praise for hours on end. But my experience, and I suspect yours, too, is just the opposite. When things are easy, we seem to get drunk on comfort, becoming almost comatose to praise and thanks.
Comfort is a drug that lulls us AWAY from Jesus rather than toward Him…! Suffering is an aide in drawing us TOWARDS the Lord Jesus rather than away from Him…!
Giving thanks when it does not make sense is a necessary form of obedience for Christians. We live in a fallen world, so suffering WILL come! That Thanksgiving, praise, and worship divert our minds from suffering is true.
BUT THE FAR GREATER TRUTH IS THIS: Thanksgiving, when it least makes sense to our flesh, makes perfect sense in the Spirit! Thanksgiving releases hope… Thanksgiving releases healing… Thanksgiving invites Jesus into our situation, and far more importantly, connects us to His situation on the Cross.
So, if the world is eating you alive this season, GIVE THANKS! (I suspect you already are…!)
Far more dangerously, if the world seems great and your belly full… GIVE THANKS! This is the place of sacrificial obedience. This is the place of greater dying to the Flesh—because the flesh feels so strong and self-sufficient. Don’t wait until the Turkey is on the table to give thanks this year… There is a special place on the floor to prostrate yourself in surrender and… GIVE THANKS!!