Sometimes I just plain don’t feel all that grateful. Which is to say, at certain times the very few things I am currently experiencing in my life for which I am not terribly thankful overshadow those many, many blessings for which, if I could get over myself, I would be enormously grateful.
The problem is, as a follower of Jesus Christ, I have no right to indulge in that kind of selective thanksgiving.
As C.S. Lewis put it, “We ought to give thanks for all fortune: if it is good, because it is good; if bad, because it works in us patience, humility, contempt of this world and the hope of our eternal country.”
If I am feeling ungrateful (and the very use of the word feeling should send up a red flag that my current state may not be rooted in either absolute truth or right perspective) it can only be because I have lost sight of the purpose of thanksgiving in the first place.
Of course I should be grateful for the innumerable blessings I receive on a daily basis – life, clean air, health, drinking water, food, sight, hearing, family, friends, a free and safe country, and so many other things I don’t have room or time to include in this post. And I should also give thanks for those things that I may not immediately consider blessings until I remember that a blessing from God is anything that draws me closer to Him (which can include illness, loss, financial hardship, or any number of challenges and heartaches in life).
However, true thanksgiving is not about what I have been given. In fact, it isn’t really about me at all.
As it says in the Psalms,
“I wash my hands in innocence
and go around your altar, O Lord,
proclaiming thanksgiving aloud,
and telling all your wondrous deeds” (26:6-8)
“I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving” (69:30)
So then, thanksgiving is not about the one who is grateful so much as it is about the one to whom gratitude is owed. And it is far less about what we have been given and far more about the giver Himself, who He is and what He has done.
Thanksgiving is not trite words spoken around a table loaded with food, it is an offering, not just of praise and thanksgiving, but of ourselves. True thanksgiving not only reveals itself in feelings and words, but in obedience. As the psalmist reminds us, “The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!” (50:23)
Whatever circumstances we find ourselves in this Thanksgiving weekend, whether we feel particularly thankful or not, still we can offer wholehearted gratitude to God and say, along with the psalmist, “I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High (7:17).
Press on, my friends,
Press on (and, to all my fellow Canadians, Happy Thanksgiving!)