Are there some things in your life that you fervently wish would be different? Do you find yourself becoming angry and frustrated because of the events that are happening to you? Does giving thanks come naturally for you, or do you allow life’s struggles to steal your joy?
I have to admit that I feel like the last person qualified to talk about the importance of giving thanks. I genuinely struggle to be optimistic and to focus on counting my blessings. It is so easy for me to become overwhelmed with life’s trials and to focus on the storm rather than on my blessings. I am mindful of the fact that I cannot go by my feelings, but rather, with God’s help, I can make the right choice.
The word “Thanksgiving” includes a verb and signifies an action on our part. It doesn’t necessarily articulate a feeling or emotion. These last few days, I have been thinking about the verse “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus….” (I Thess. 5:18) Why would God give us this command when He knows how tremendously difficult it is for us to do it? At times, we as parents give our children a command without fully believing or expecting them to carry out our wishes. Is this what God does?
Contrary to our flawed parenting techniques, God never asks anything of us that He doesn’t expect us to undertake. He knows we can accomplish it, but only by His grace and strength. God isn’t asking us to feel thankful. He is simply asking us to give thanks. No matter what situation you find yourself in, you can ALWAYS find something in which to give God thanks. When we take the first step of obedience by giving thanks, the feelings of gratefulness will eventually follow.
I have written this blog primarily for myself today! I have had to weep and ask my heavenly Father’s forgiveness for disobeying this command. Since we have been exceptionally busy, I have felt the demands of being pulled in many different directions, and rather than counting my blessings, I have been counting my burdens. I am now making the conscious choice of giving thanks and focusing on my blessings instead of on what I wish would be different. Thanksgiving, by the way, should be a way of life; not just a special day that we observe.
As we approach the holidays, I am keenly aware of the numerous individuals and families who are experiencing less-than-perfect scenarios. None of us are exempt from facing the pain and disappointment of living in a fallen world.
As you sit around your table this Thanksgiving, you may be sorrowfully aware of the unoccupied chair of a loved one. The vacant spot in your heart may threaten to rob your joy and take away any feelings of thankfulness. You may avoid thinking about the approaching holidays because it’s just too painful.
Maybe you haven’t lost a loved one, but you have experienced a loss of another kind this past year. You may have had a loss of finances this past year. You may be feeling the loss of a broken or strained relationship. Maybe you have unexpectedly encountered the loss of your health or the health of someone you love. Whatever the loss may be, a godly response to it is to focus on your blessings rather than on your loss.
This is my desire and resolve as I face this holiday season with the losses in my life. (Our book, “Big Mountain, Bigger God” shares our complete journey.) Will you join me in making the intentional choice of giving thanks, regardless of the circumstances?
“Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has many–not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” Charles Dickens