Thankful? Even for that?
Thankfulness. That’s what we think about during Thanksgiving. We celebrate all we have to be thankful for, all the big and small things that bring us joy. In writing this, I tried to think of something unique to say, something that hasn’t been said a million times before, but the truth is, the simple word, thankful, doesn’t require any original thought; it simply requires doing. So that’s what I hope to inspire here – a daily practice of gratitude in every single thing.
Those last four words “in every single thing” are the words that I’m spending time focusing on this week. Yep, Every. Single. Thing. That's not easy. Thankful even for the bad stuff? The hard stuff? The messy stuff? Even the inconvenient or annoying stuff? That's a tough task.
I read in 1Thessalonians 5:18:
“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” (NLT)
The Message translation of this verse says, “Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.”
In every translation, the meaning is the same. Whether things are going the way I think they should or whether things are going much different than I prefer, I am to give thanks.
So, this week I ask myself how I’m doing with that. If I’m honest, I know I need to keep working on it. Because I’m human, I can complain, I can worry, I can feel down, bored, frustrated, mad. That’s not to say that I don’t also feel all the opposite of those emotions – relaxed, happy, excited, calm, content, undisturbed, strong. But what I want to remember to do is to ALWAYS REMEMBER that God is with me in ALL of these moments. By doing this, I am always closer to feeling the joy and peace he promises that cannot possibly be found in anything else.
Of course, saying this is much easier than living it out, but I do think a first step is to actually speak or write a word of thanks regularly. One of my favorite books on this idea is One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. In one of her devotionals related to this book she writes this:
“I remember once sitting at the hairdresser’s. The woman beside me reads, and I read her title in the reflection of the mirror: 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. Is that it? Are there physical places I simply must see before I stop breathing within time, before I inhale eternity? Why? To say that I’ve had reason to bow low? To say that I’ve seen beauty? To say that I’ve been arrested by wonder? Isn’t it here? Can’t I find it here?”
To that I say a resounding YES! I can find wonder and beauty and miraculous right here – in the fact that I’m moving, breathing, living in a world where the sun rises each day and sets into a colorful sky each night is wondrous in and of itself. When I forget to notice or take for granted the glorious details like this right in front of me, I miss out on the true joy God gives me in abundance.
My daughter gifted me with a mug that reads "Bloom Where You are Planted." That little mug is one I use almost every day, and I love it because she gave it to me, but I also love it for that reminder: Bloom wherever I am. Whatever circumstance I'm in, find a way to make the best of it. If I'm not living in a spirit of gratitude, that will be difficult to do. I will long to be elsewhere rather than soaking in the joy and good right in front of me. I might worry about things I can't control or simply take for granted all the good things I have.
Deuteronomy 8:18 starts simply by saying “Remember the Lord Your God.” I counted seven instances in the 20 verses of Deuteronomy 8 where we are told to remember or not forget God and all that he does for us. That seems like plenty of reminders of the importance of keeping him in the forefront of our thoughts all the time.
In Luke 17:15-19, I am reminded to be like the ONE thankful man out of ten who Jesus healed.
“One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan.
Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.”
The others may have been physically fine once healed, but only this one was fully healed, body, mind, heart, soul. That’s what we all seek, right? To be whole, complete.
Other reminders to always be thankful can be found throughout the Bible such as in Philippians and Colossians:
“Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
“Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.” Colossians 4:2
The fact that God reminds us so often in his word to be thankful means he knows we need the reminder. He knows the world will distract us, disappoint us, confuse us, and that the key to rising above all this is remembering him, the one who is all loving, powerful, and present through it all.
My Thanksgiving prayer for all of us is to remember to be thankful, not just this week, not just when things are going well, but at ALL times and in ALL things. I hope to fill my journal with thanks about the little things, to find the wonder right in front of me like Ann Voskamp recommends. I hope you’ll join me, and I hope you find a week, a month, a year, a life filled with a God you can never forget.
Some Thanksgiving Readings for this week:
1 Thessalonians 5
· Find one little thing in your day to describe and thank God for. It doesn’t need to be something unusual. In fact, the smaller or more ordinary may be better. In front of me right now for example is my computer, books, pens, a journal, a plant, a bowl of lemons, a toaster, my shoes. These are things I could take for granted, but I could write in detail about each one of these, telling why each one gives me something to be thankful for. On a more obvious note, my husband and my son sit at the table talking. I could take that for granted too, but there is clearly so much to be thankful for with the presence of those we love.
· Copy a favorite verse from the passages listed above. Read it over several times in different translations. What stands out to you? Write down what you think God is speaking to you.
· Think back to a time when God answered a prayer or a time when something turned out better or different than you thought it would. What do you have to be thankful for in this situation? How can this remind you to trust God in a situation now?
Have a blessed Thanksgiving, filled with the wonder, joy, and love of our ever-present God.