We’re less than a week away from Thanksgiving, which has an interesting and diverse history in our great nation. The original seed for celebrating thanksgiving as we know it started with the Pilgrims in Plymouth back in 1621. After that, New England colonists dedicated different days to giving thanks for a variety of reasons, including the signing of the U.S. Constitution and even for the end of droughts. Thanksgiving became an official national holiday in 1863 under President Lincoln, remarkably during the Civil War.
As we reflect on 2020 it’s very easy to find many reasons not to be thankful. It’s a natural human response to feel ungrateful when things are not going like we want them to. Yet, as noted above, the national holiday we are about to celebrate was founded during a very dark time in our country’s history. It’s not difficult to see the stark political divide in the U.S. right now and imagine how a country once united under common beliefs and goals could plunge into a war against itself. So, if our American ancestors could still be thankful even during times of great strife and suffering, shouldn’t we?
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:11-13
Giving thanks is emphasized throughout scripture. God commands His people to be thankful in all seasons, in good times and bad, in wealth and poverty, in health and sickness. Why? Because it takes the focus off our problems and rightly recognizes God’s sovereignty and benevolence. A thankful heart shows God we really love Him. It’s also tough to be angry, upset, frustrated, and depressed when we are consciously appreciative of every gift the Lord has given us.
There is much to be said about being thankful (see verses below), but there’s one thing I believe that can help each of us be more thankful tomorrow than we are today: during your prayer time, thank God for specific blessings. Avoid generic ‘thanks’; be granular and explicit: “God, thank you for my salvation, Your written word, Your indwelling Spirit, for my home, my car, my job, the food in my pantry, clean water to drink, clothing and shoes, a shower every day, eyes to see Your creation with, ears to hear the birds singing, the freedom to pray to You openly, my family (far and near), good coffee every morning…” I’m sure you will find many, many more to add!
Each of us has SO MUCH to be thankful for, even in times of loss, distress, and suffering, because there are millions of blessings the Lord has graciously granted us. Make that list, consider it, and give thanks. Your day will improve in ways you can’t even begin to imagine!
Here are a few verses about being thankful; there are many more!
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. – 1 Thes 5:16-18
The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Phil 4:5-7
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! – Psalm 107:1
Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! 1 Chronicles 16:8-9
For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. - 2 Corinthians 4:15
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. – Colossians 3:17
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. – Psalm 95:2-3
[all verses from ESV]