One of the most meaningful holidays we celebrate in the United States is Thanksgiving. This national holiday is set aside to give thanks for the many blessings we enjoy throughout the year, as well as to remember the first Thanksgiving in 1621, shared by the Pilgrims and Indians.
Some countries, like Ireland, for instance, do not have a Thanksgiving holiday, and one is hard-pressed to find a turkey and all the trimmings of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner in the local markets. My son and daughter-in-law, who lived in Ireland, said when they tried to buy a turkey for their Thanksgiving meal, people looked at them like they had three heads! They had to special-order a turkey from a local farmer, and they paid a pretty penny for it.
God hasn’t called us to just one day of thanksgiving every year. He calls us to a lifetime of thanks-living—an ongoing, moment-by-moment, gratitude-in-action way of life. In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus, 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says.
Thanks-living is a habit of giving thanks IN everything, not necessarily FOR everything. We do not have to thank God for every circumstance we’re faced with, but we thank Him because He is above the circumstances in our lives. Did I thank God when I was diagnosed with cancer? I did not. I thanked Him for His constant care and companionship throughout the ordeal—daily peace and inner strength were mine because of His great love and the presence of His Comforter, the Holy Spirit. I was never alone. When family and friends left or retired for the night, the Holy Spirit covered the night watches.
When negative findings repeatedly came back from scans and tests, and symptoms disappeared, a moment-by-moment attitude of gratitude welled up in my heart. God was letting me live, despite the terminal prognosis. That was sixteen years ago, and I am thankful for every day He gives me. Our circumstances change, but God does not, and that is something to be thankful for!
During his first imprisonment in Rome, the Apostle Paul wrote to the Colossians and told them, “Let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom He gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Colossians 3:15-17).
Paul knew that God was above his circumstances as he penned that letter from a dark, dank prison cell. No turkey dinner there. No pumpkin pie or sweet potatoes. The ambiance in his cell was not warm and cozy with candles wafting scents of cinnamon and spices. But the habit he had developed was to give thanks regardless, and he knew that one of the most edifying, beneficial things to do was to always be thankful.
The COVID-19 pandemic casts a shadow on holidays like Thanksgiving…or does it? Maybe we can’t gather in as large a group as we’re accustomed to; maybe our travel is limited; maybe it’s just not the same setting as it has been for the last twenty years. Our circumstances have changed, clearly, but our God has not. In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. He is with us, still providing and caring for us, still loving us, still healing us, still comforting. Find Him in your Thanksgiving celebration, even if it’s just you and the Lord, or you and one or two others. Paul did—in fact, he had a continual feast with the Lord by simply living thankfully.
(More on Thanks-Living coming up in the next One-a-Day.)
© 2021, Chris Werre