Thanksgiving is around the corner, but I’ve been seeing Christmas decorations everywhere for the past three months. Why does commercialism rush into our lives? First Halloween came in a big wave, then a quick peak to Thanksgiving. And then comes Christmas shopping. Many will be more excited about the gifts they receive/give, than in celebrating the miraculous event of Christmas. Actually Christmas is the reason that we celebrate Thanksgiving – It is a time of gratitude for what God has done in the past, what he is doing in the present moment and He will do in the future in our lives.
It is always appropriate to say a quick prayer before each meal to thank the Lord for His provision (for the table he’s prepared before us). Whenever we do this we acknowledge that He is our loving Father in heaven, the provider of all our gifts. Without gratefulness we become arrogant and self-centered. We start believing the lie that all we have is due to our own efforts. Giving thanks to God keeps us in right relationship with the giver of all good things.
Thanksgivings are a big event in our household. We love to host extended family and friends at our house. When we gather at the candle-lit table, beautifully set for 30 of our loved ones, it is a quite special day for all of us. God invites us to His feast; to His table of thanksgiving. The Lord says, “Do this in remembrance of Me”. (Luke 22:19)
Obviously the Lord is always with us, but on the day of Thanksgiving when I look around, I take a moment and immerse myself with gratitude. As we stand in a big circle holding hands and thanking God for many blessings for he has bestowed upon us, I can feel the presence of God with us. After prayers, we sit down for our meal once again I am aware of the Lord’s presence at our table. He looks at everyone of us with so much love and I see His radiant love in each of us. Although there is a lot of delicious food from two or three different ethnicities, I reflect on the truth that we actually are indulging in a feast of God’ love (food for our souls) more so than on the meal.
We have a tradition to play games after dinner, eating and drinking tea all night long. Everyone talks at the same time, telling jokes with loud laughter, eating sweets and drinking more tea. I know what you’re thinking – we do drink a lot of tea! It is a cultural thing. How can we not be thankful for moments like that? Love, good food, and laughter all at the same time – it is a priceless combination. A moment of glee. A moment of rejoicing with those who rejoice. The candlelight of God’s love burns in the hearts of those who give thanks to His name.
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for His steadfast love endures forever.”
So the question is: should we only be grateful when everything is glorious and fun or should we lift our eyes toward heaven with thanksgiving even when we’re in distress? The word of God tells us to be thankful in any circumstance. I don’t know what part of the world you are living right now, but we certainly take much for granted here in the western world.
Have you ever experienced living somewhere where you had to heat the water in a small bucket in order to wash yourself in the cold chill of winter? If so, you would likely have a greater appreciation for your daily hot shower available on this side of the world. Or perhaps the task of walking for miles to the market instead of driving to the supermarket to buy a carton of milk. I’m so grateful for God for generously meeting so many of our daily needs.
We have all at times come across people who are unappreciative. Nothing ever makes them happy. For instance, if you give them a gift, it is too small or too big. They focus on the gift, not the heart of the giver. How much happier they would be if they were grateful for the thought rather than the size or brand.
On the other hand, those who have a grateful mindset will most likely experience happiness and be more at ease and content. Don’t you just love being around people who are grateful? You do not have to worry about how they react to what you are able to do for them.
Gratitude to God is encouraged by all religions and all cultures. When someone lacks gratitude, it’s because their focus is centered on their problems. One of the great teachers in our church taught me the following truth: It is the attitude of gratitude that can change lives. It was God’s perfect timing for me to hear that message when I did. One of my loved ones was suffering with an illness. I kept praying for healing, but my prayers were heavy with heartache, worries and question like, “Why, oh why, Lord?” and, “What can I do?” As I began to embrace an attitude of gratitude, the worry, sadness, and heavy heart lost its power over me. As I started thanking God, praising and worshiping Him instead of complaining, not only did I receive the peace of God, but also my love one’s suffering began to lessen. We all have a propensity to get worried when we have no control over certain situations.We must remember however, that the lower we bow before Him with a thankful heart, the higher He lifts us up.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Someone once asked me, “How can you thank God when you’re in the midst of turmoil?” I said, “Let’s look at the choices I have. I can be miserable, worried and angry. Or, I can give up my ways and surrender to the One who is in charge of every breath I take.” It’s very difficult to praise and thank God in the midst of turmoil, when you or your loved ones are suffering and nothing seems within your control. We are not thanking him for our pains and adversity, but we acknowledge that He is sovereign and He will never leave us or forsake us. We are thanking Him because He is a good and loving God and He will use our situation for His purposes, bringing good out of even bad circumstances.
Of course, surrendering with thankfulness is a battle that we all struggle with, yet gratefulness brings us first to salvation, and then to an ever deepening level of relationship with God. As a result, we will feel His peace and find rest – a place of rest where God has our back. God doesn’t want to be involved in just one area of our lives, He wants us to submit completely and utterly, with every ounce of our whole being to Him. Give Him the sacrifice of thanksgiving. When we bring our sacrifice of thankfulness and gratitude, we will see His abundant blessings in our lives.
(1 Thessalonians 5:18)
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
I’m grateful for God’s grace, mercy, forgiveness, love, and freedom from the shackles of this world! What are you grateful for?