Before we get hurled into the rush of the Christmas season, there is the quietness of Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving doesn’t get near the airtime that Halloween or Christmas get, even though it’s clearly the meat in this holiday season sandwich.
It’s easy to be shallow in our thanksgiving. To gloss over it with a ,”thanks for getting us here safely, thanks for food and health and family, Amen.” Not that those aren’t important things.
But true life-changing gratitude goes so much deeper. It’s not something you can manufacture for a day or even for a month of counting blessings via Facebook status updates. True thanksgiving is an issue of the heart.
In the book of 1 Thessalonians, the apostle Paul says, “Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I’ve heard it preached as a command, something you have to do in order to be in God’s good graces.
But I don’t see it that way. I think it’s a grace-filled desire.
It is God’s deep desire that we be grateful people.
Why? Because this is His will for us. Gratitude is crucial in the abundant life He has planned for us.
In Corrie Ten Boom’s well-known book, The Hiding Place, Betsy Ten Boom thanks God for an infestation of fleas in their concentration camp barracks. At the time Corrie has a hard time stomaching Betsy’s prayer. Only later do the sisters discover that the fleas are keeping the guards from entering the barracks. With no guards to stop them, the young women are able to lead Bible studies in the barracks without harassment or punishment.
It’s amazing to see faith like that. A faith that so simply trusts and offers thanks for the most dire of circumstances.
If I am not careful, I can use such stories of faith to bash myself on days when I am ungrateful. On days when I mess up. On days when I question my circumstances, doubt their purpose, even doubt God. I can start to condemn my own faith for not being great enough because I don’t always feel like smiling. After all, I know I’m supposed to give thanks in all circumstances.
- The Apostle Paul did.
- Betsy Ten Boom did.
- All the good Christians do.
But I don’t think that’s what the verse means at all. I don’t believe that giving thanks in all circumstances means we are supposed to deny the pain, the sadness, the anger, or the negative things that come our way. It doesn’t mean we’re to ignore our pain while offering up thanksgiving lip service with a painted-on smile and a canned prayer.
Not at all.
True gratitude flows from knowing that there is a God who is bigger than our circumstances.
A God who holds us during the fiercest of storms, who understands our heartache and comforts us through our trials. A God who never leaves us.True gratitude is able to open eyes to all that surrounds us, even the tiniest of fleas, and be amazed that God would care for us at all.
And oh, how God cares for us.
One of my husband’s favorite Bible verses is 1 Peter 5:7, “Cast all your cares on Him for He cares for you.” The best part of that verse can slip right by if you let it. “He cares for you.”
I think so often our prayers are offered to a God who is distant. A God who only cares about important things like safe travel and good health and enough food to eat. A God on a far-off mountain in a far-off land. A Charlton Heston-like God who is strong and powerful, but who is uninterested in the mundane details of the lives of His creations.
And yet. . . . “He cares for you.”
I think God’s purpose in wanting you to give thanks in all circumstances is to remind you that He notices. He sees. He is interested in the details.
We tend to save up our thanks for the big stuff. But God is reminding us that He’s there during all the little stuff, too.
- He cares about the fleas in the hay.
- He knows about the splinter in the child’s finger.
- He understands the heartbreak of a teenage girl over a boy who doesn’t give her the time of day.
- He cares about the spilled milk, and the flat tire, and the crying baby, and the leaky roof.
- He sees every tear, and also every smile.
- He hears every laugh and every cry.
- He sends the rain and the rainbow alike.
He is a God of details. And He is deeply, passionately interested in all of yours.
And so I offer you this Thanksgiving challenge: will you wake up tomorrow morning and notice your first breath? Will you remember that it is God who breathed that life into you and kept your heart beating through the night? Will you notice the color of your own eyes as you look at your newly wakened face, will you savor the taste of your first coffee, will you gaze at the sunbeams dancing across the kitchen floor? And then will you continue to take in all the colors and the scents and the sights of the day? Because He is in them all.
Will you recognize, on this Thanksgiving, that God is right here with you? He is not watching you from a distance. He is with you. He is beside you. He is in the details. And He cares for you as a father cares for a precious, beloved child.
Have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving,
If you haven’t read it already, I highly recommend Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. It is the best book on gratitude that I’ve ever encountered, a life-changer. Buy it for yourself and get another one for a friend. Give the gift of gratitude this holiday season.