Written by Jolene DeHeer
As the American Thanksgiving holiday approaches people are making plans for family celebrations, groceries are being bought, houses cleaned, guest rooms readied. In the middle of the hustle and bustle of preparation, let’s pause for a moment to consider the source and reason we give thanks.
The primary reason we have for thanksgiving is the person and work of our Heavenly Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. We daily experience the lavish grace, love, joy, peace, and hope they pour into our lives. We marvel at the wonder of being adopted as children of the King because of the sacrifice of the Son. We are humbled to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit and our hearts overflow with thanksgiving.
With the grace of God as the foundation for giving thanks, I would postulate that there are three attitudes which can intensify, strengthen, and enhance our ability to be truly thankful.
The first is an attitude of gratitude.
Being truly grateful necessitates slowing down enough to recognize the gifts of grace God places in our path each day. We become so used to living enfolded in His love and providential care, we begin to take for granted both big and little gifts of grace. Too often we are not grateful for our health until we become ill. We daily go to jobs God has given us and forget to be grateful for gainful employment. We miss the exquisite beauty of creation because of our too busy schedules. We don’t fully appreciate the gift of loving family and friends, until we lose someone. Perhaps we need to slow down, ask God to open our eyes to His glory and grace that surround us and commit to living each day with deep gratitude that leads to thanksgiving.
A second attitude that increases thanksgiving is choosing to be content.
We humans are prone to compare ourselves to others and want what they have while missing the blessings of our own lives. It is not wrong to want something more or different, but it can get in the way of having a thankful heart and lead to jealousy, envy, or ungratefulness. I have always marveled at Paul’s ability to say, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” I believe the key word in that sentence is “learned.” Learning is a long, continual process. Learning to be content involves humbling ourselves, giving up our desires, letting go of expectations. It is learning to trust God’s plan, have faith He is working, and resting in His promises. It is not easy, but when we do, the contentment opens the door for gratitude which gives way to thanksgiving.
The third is acceptance with joy.
I learned about this from an old book by Hannah Hunnard called “Hinds Feet on High Places.” This allegory finds “Much-Afraid” following the “Chief Shepherd” up a mountain to get to His Father’s Kingdom of Love. Along the way she must learn the importance of “acceptance with joy.” Many people can accept life’s difficulties, but struggle to accept trials with joy. I have discovered that joy is a choice…a choice that is grounded in faith in God’s love and His ability to use all things for my good and His glory. It is a choice to surrender fear, doubt, anger, or any other emotion that would draw me away from the heart of God. It is a choice to daily approach the cross of Christ to leave the negative, destructive emotions and take away peace, hope, love, and joy…beautiful, blessed joy. That joy bursts forth into words of thanksgiving and praise.
Every morning before I get out of bed, I ask the Spirit to empower and fill me with gratitude, contentment, and acceptance with joy.
Consequently, my life has become increasingly filled with more thanksgiving and praise – not just once a year, but all year long. As you prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday, I leave you with these words from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”