Crisp air gusts across a brittle and dimming Pennsylvania, drawing out hoodies and denim and pumpkin spice everything. College football grips hearts. Deer hunting stirs imaginations. Fireplaces glow, and our homes fill with the aroma of baking and scented jar candles. Retailers scream Christmas, but we’re not ready to hear them. Soon, no doubt, we’ll deck the halls and swarm the malls. But first, we prepare for Thanksgiving.
True enough, Thanksgiving is a day and of course a feast of favorite dishes to accompany those stuffed and roasted turkeys. The Macy’s Parade marches through our mornings. Extended families gather, pray before eating, and perhaps share reasons for which they feel thankful. Yes, Thanksgiving is a cherished occasion, a crown jewel for many grandparents, and my personal favorite holiday. And yet, as a Christ follower, I sometimes find Thanksgiving as convicting as it is fulfilling.
Thanksgiving Day sometimes feels like an eroding monument to simplicity and Biblical values, standing tall amid the prevailing winds of entitlement and discontent. Shopping ferocity manhandles sentimentality, and most Americans probably feel more thankful one month later, rifling through presents and splurging on gift cards. These are my opinions, and they are certainly debatable. My greatest conviction, however, is an indisputable matter of the heart. My heart, at least.
The Thanksgiving holiday, historically rooted in gratitude for our divine creator, nudges me toward two pointed questions: Am I a thankful Christian? And, if so, why do ordinary stresses so easily knock off balance my attitude of praise?
The Apostle Paul, in his every epistle, encourages believers to give thanks to God, no matter the circumstance. And this from a man who’d been beaten and shipwrecked and left to languish in the harshest of prisons. For Paul, literally nothing diminished his gratitude, and he left no doubt that continuous thanksgiving—beyond any hardship—was natural and expected for those saved by Christ. Christians are always to be thankful, because God is always worthy.
Though at times I find empathy with the Apostle Paul difficu
lt, I am indeed a thankful Christian. God has blessed me beyond measure, and He is forever deserving of my worship and praise. I need look no further than the Gospel to make that claim. And regarding stressful circumstances, I generally conclude that the extent to which they disrupt thankfulness—mine and yours—depends upon our choice to abide in Christ.
In His presence, gratitude abounds. It refreshes our hearts, colors our perspectives, and accentuates the fruits of His spirit. We must draw near to Him daily and continuously count our blessings, of which salvation is the grandest. For when we do, we not only discover but nurture and mature a heart of thanksgiving that soars above holiday stress and the troubles of this world.
Thanksgiving certainly brings anxiety, and the season on its heels is guaranteed to bring double. But this year, I encourage all of us to stay thankful. Despite strained relationships, travel hazards, last-minute shopping, or the pain of missing lost loved ones, stay thankful, if nothing else, for that which can never be taken from you: the love of Jesus, His gift of salvation, and the power of His Word, hidden in your heart.
When we abide in these truths, thanksgiving thrives despite our fickle emotions. Even when our faces pinch in frustration or glisten with tears, thanksgiving breathes in us, stabilizes our thoughts, and plays a very important role in the peace we all desire, the peace our Lord promises.
Two of the most skimmed over words in the Bible hide in one of its most quoted passages regarding stress, Philippians 4:6-7, which says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Did you catch it—with thanksgiving?
With thanksgiving, we pray in every situation. With thanksgiving, we present our requests to God. No one on Earth had more right to be bitter than the man who wrote these words, the Apostle Paul, chained, imprisoned, wasting away physically for his faith and commitment to the cause of Jesus Christ. And yet Paul’s relationship with Jesus and his hope for eternity were so great, so vibrant, so etched into the core of his being that he found them incomparable to worldly hardships. May we all be so blessed.
I hope my words have added food for thought to your holiday feast. Happy Thanksgiving!
Prayer: Heavenly Father, in all times and circumstances, you are worthy of my praise. Thank you for loving me, forgiving me, and making a way for me to spend eternity in Heaven through faith in Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. Use the joys and the challenges of this holiday season to mature my faith and remind me how very blessed I am in You. Always and forever. Amen