“For what [adequate] thanksgiving can we render to God for you for all the gladness and delight which we enjoy for your sakes before our God?” 1 Thessalonians 3:9 Amplified Bible
On November 26, 2015, here in the United States we celebrated the Thanksgiving Holiday. For many it meant gathering with family and friends. Others celebrated this holiday of family and home all alone. And still others found themselves having to say goodbye to someone who had filled their lives with love. Intertwined for each of these listed were moments of surprise, joy, and mourning, many of which occurred without warning of any kind.
How does one celebrate a holiday specifically built around the idea of being thankful? Some people just seem to have a knack for finding that one thing for which they can be thankful. Yet there are those who wrestle with the desire to be thankful, let alone discovering the ability to be thankful. I find it can be extremely challenging to discover the art of being thankful during what has become my “normal” life.
But what do you do when you find yourself looking around a table laden with food and somewhere along the same table is an empty chair? Or what if the table you are looking at has nothing on it, but is surrounded by the faces of those you love, those whose faces show hunger? How do you discover the ability to be thankful in a scenario in which thanksgiving is the last thing on your mind?
You will probably have heard or read that the challenge in being thankful is the willingness to make it a conscious choice. Love is also represented as more than a set of feelings which make you feel all warm and fuzzy. In fact, there are times the last thing you may feel in choosing love is being warm and fuzzy! However, both thankfulness and love have to be more than feelings, they transcend feelings into the realm of acting with a purpose, making a commitment beyond being controlled by our feelings.
And many face the challenge of finding thankfulness for that one individual whom they would rather ignore or even pretend does not exist. If that person is not a reality, then there is no responsibility for seeking the thankfulness Paul wrote about. We can find many things, that if we are made to, we can find a way to be thankful. But what about those persons God brings into our lives who challenge us to the depth of our souls?
Some of us may have in our lives people we wish belonged to someone else, whether friends or family. (I admit to finding one or two relationships quite difficult!) But to discover in them something we enjoy about being in their presence seems an impossibility. It’s so hard to find, let alone imagine, just one thing that could make us delight in them!
Yet Paul refers to an attitude that goes beyond thanksgiving to finding gladness and joy in someone! Once more, if it does not transcend our feelings, we will never be able to find that gladness, joy, and delight in some of those God brings into our lives. Whether they are family members with whom we share genetics, those who are family strictly because God has placed them in our lives, or are members of our church family, we have the opportunity to offer thanks for them.
As I stated earlier, there are some who know how to be thankful no matter the circumstances. For others, it takes more work, more imagination, or as for some of us an infinite amount of grace. Because try as hard as we might there are just those times when life, people, or circumstances get in the way of finding that elusive ability to be either thankful or to find anything to be thankful about!
I know there are those for whom what I just wrote won’t make any sense, that just like love, being thankful is a choice. Well, let’s be honest. At times, both can try the patience of the saints (and Paul the Apostle addresses each of the believers as saints)! However, that does not mean God lets you and me off the hook when it comes to what He desires in my life or yours.
As far as I am able to understand these things, God longs to heal those things which stand in the way of anyone being blessed by the thanksgiving He longs to provide in the lives of those He created and loves. His idea of love and thanksgiving applies even to being those who are lobbing hand grenades at our heads! I don’t know about you, but I have not found this easy to accomplish. The blessing and gift are that God is more than able to accomplish it in me; He is the One who provides the ability to do in me what I cannot achieve.
What I know is this, I do not deserve what God has given me in my wife, my daughters, the very fact that I am even alive to be able to write to you! I hope you have had what brings you the joy, the delight, the thankfulness of the holiday we just celebrated. I pray that over the coming months and even years your lives will be filled with all that allows you to make that choice to be thankful, filled with joy, and the ability to delight in all you come to know as those God has placed in your sphere of influence.
“I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD.” Psalm 116:17
“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 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 3:15-17