No doubt about it. 2020 has been a tough year for most of us. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused turmoil for millions of people in nearly every country.
The economic crisis created by the closure of businesses has added insult to injury, particularly for families who have been accustomed to living from paycheck to paycheck.
The run-up to and the aftermath of the U.S. Presidential Election has brought great stress on our nation and our citizens.
All of that to say that, on November 26, our country will celebrate Thanksgiving.
For most, it will not be an “over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house” kind of holiday. (We know because the CDC has already told us so.) Many are searching for something to be thankful for.
Let’s face it: Thanksgiving can be tough in times like these.
Times will be tough.
Christians should not be surprised when we experience tough times. Jesus told His disciples and, in effect, us that we would have troubles in this world. Apparently, He did not mean “occasionally.” These have been unremitting wars, famines, pestilence, and plagues for the past 2,000 years. Life is worse for some than for others, but it is not easy for anyone.
James urges us to “consider it pure joy” when we face trials of many kinds. Paul teaches us that patience, character, and hope are the fruit of suffering. In spite of these divinely inspired directions in the very Word of God, we are inclined to despair during difficult days – exactly the opposite of what the Lord wants us to do.
So, here’s a little help as, together, we face Thanksgiving in tough times like these.
The southern kingdom of Judah was in big trouble, and Jehoshaphat knew it. Jerusalem was about to be attacked by an overwhelming alliance led by the Moabite and Ammonite armies. (See 2 Chronicles 20). The Jewish people were scared stiff by the onslaught they were about to face.
It is important for us in these uncertain times to recall how King Jehoshaphat and Jahaziel the Levite faced a troubled time with thankful hearts.
Thank the Lord for who He is.
Let’s not forget that our Lord is unlike any other. He is our Creator, Redeemer, Savior, and Friend.
Jehoshaphat thanked the Lord for that, reminding Him that He is the LORD, the God of their ancestors, the God who is in Heaven. He thanked Him for who He is.
Then he thanked him for what He does. “You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you.”
Never, ever is there a time when He is not King of Kings and Lord of Lord. Never is there a time when He does not possess omnipotence and incomparably infinite power.
Never is there a time when He will withdraw His Presence from those of us who trust and follow Him.
That is something to be thankful for in tough times.
Thank the Lord for what He has done.
Jehoshaphat didn’t stop there. He thanked the Lord for the things that He has done. Specifically, he thanked Him for leading Israel into the land He had long before promised to Abraham. He thanked Him for driving the enemies out of the land so that Abraham’s descendants could fully possess it.
We can be thankful during troubling times by reminding the Lord and ourselves of all the things He has done for us. I don’t know about you, but even if I could recount all that He has done for me – none of which I deserve – I realize that I don’t even know half of what He has done. So, I thank Him for those gifts of grace as well.
Ask the Lord to glorify Himself again.
The reason Jehoshaphat was thankful was that he knew the Lord and what He had already done. Those are sufficient reasons to be thankful – even in the face of an inevitable battle of epic proportions and even when defeat seems inevitable.
Jehoshaphat didn’t come begging. He came to the Lord, giving thanks. The fourth chapter of Philippians encourages us to do the same.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
Turn your anxiety into Thanksgiving.
Troubling times make us anxious because we cannot see how we can come out of them. But our Lord knows. What is more, He is in absolute control.
We can bring every problem, every stressor, every difficulty, every trial to the Lord our God. We can do it effectively by praying with thanksgiving rather than with fear.
We serve a faithful God who loves us and who will give us peace that “transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.”
Let the Lord fight your battles.
Our anxiety and perplexity trouble us when we realize that we are facing a battle that we can neither influence nor win.
After Jehoshaphat had prayed, the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jahaziel, the Levite, and he stood before the people and proclaimed that the battle belongs to the Lord!
“This is what the LORD says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.”
Thanksgiving is not just a holiday. It is the heart attitude with which we enter the gates of Heaven. It is the companion of the praises we offer in His courts. It is what we do before we face troubles and trials.
It reminds us that He is who He says He is and that He will do what He has promised to do – regardless of how bad the situation in the world, in our nation, in our home, or in our personal life seems to be.
Give thanks. Then watch what God can do.
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