During the last two months of the calendar year, Americans can often indulge in a celebratory season of self-absorption. All the while, a nucleus of God-fearing folks try to retain the spirit of the holidays as they were meant to be – as opposed to the socially acceptable events that they have become.
As we step through November’s front gate, inquiring minds want to know what we are thankful for. Almost inevitably, the responses include things like honors and trophies won, possessions gained, experiences enjoyed, and various and sundry things, all of which are under a proverbial umbrella of “good things that have happened to me.”
After a day officially set aside as “Thanksgiving,” we experience a minor metamorphosis during which the question du jour changes slightly from “What are you thankful for” to “What do you want for Christmas?”
The year-ending occasions originally intended to focus on the goodness of God have drifted away to follow our cultural path of “what’s in it for me.”
That’s not quite what President Lincoln had in mind when he declared proclaimed Thanksgiving as a National Holiday on October 3, 1863.
I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they also do, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and Union.
President Lincoln rightly observed our “national perverseness” as a significant component of a formal Thanksgiving occasion. Thanksgiving cannot be realized until we first acknowledge and accept our own personal and national perverseness. We become perverse when we choose to ignore the centrality of Almighty God in our lives. When we ignore Him, we instead become the center of our own universes, often neglecting the suffering of others.
Conversely, the lack of Thanksgiving is evidence of our self-centeredness.
I’m suggesting that Thanksgiving is not an effusiveness – whether temporary or prolonged – for some good fortune that has overtaken us. Nor is it limited to times when our circumstances exceed our expectations.
Thanksgiving is “a consistent attitude of gratitude.” Thanksgiving might best be envisioned as Fanny Crosby saw it from her blinded eyes.
God will take care of you, be not afraid;
He is your safeguard thro’ sunshine and shade;
Tenderly watching and keeping His own,
He will not leave you to wander alone.
God will take care of you, long as you live,
Granting you blessings no other can give;
He will take care of you when time is past,
Safe to His kingdom will bring you at last.
The world system teaches us that when we experience a good time or receive a good reward, we should say “Thank you.” What happens if that experience never reoccurs? We suffer disappointment based on the world system’s expectations.
True Christ-followers understand who God is and that He is always good. His truth never changes. He is dependable. Being safe in the security of the knowledge allows us to be thankful at all times, regardless of our circumstances.
Although he does not specifically say so, the Apostle Paul strongly implies that a thanksgiving attitude of gratitude is irrevocably connected to a peaceful and happy life regardless of circumstances. (Philippians 4)
At a very minimum, he explains that peace from God and with God is a result of a continual manifestation of thanksgiving in prayer. Because the God who loves us in always in control, we can make our requests known with thanksgiving. We know His love endures forever and that nothing can separate us from that love.
In that same passage, Paul connects thanksgiving to contentment. His ability to be content despite the circumstances was acquired because he had learned to live in a continual state of thanksgiving. He urges us to face life the same way.
Thanksgiving requires a firm and faithful commitment to Jesus Christ – no matter what. The results become irrelevant when the God of Creation is in control. He is. Therefore, be thankful.