How will you celebrate Thanksgiving this year? We will go to a sister’s home and I imagine a special prayer will be offered, perhaps participatory. What to say if invited to reflect what I’m thankful for?
My inclination is to think about what I feel best about in my life right now, according to me. The Bible, on the other hand, offers a somewhat BROADER perspective on thankfulness.
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:18, ESV)
Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, (Ephesians 5:20)
Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. (Hebrews 13:5)
“All - Always - Everything-Continually” doesn’t leave much room for what seems good to me at any given moment.
At work, one of my regular jobs is making different sizes of rubber pads for installing racks in commercial vehicles. Although learning this job was somewhat involved, I’ve got it down now and let’s just say that when I get on a parts-making roll, I struggle to keep my brain engaged.
I did production work in my younger years so when this job came along, I resolved to mentally prepare myself for the mind-numbing aspects of factory work. Turns out, plenty of positives with this company as well - friendly and supportive management and coworkers, steady and predictable hours, optional overtime, a comfortable and casual workplace. Still, the production doldrums sometimes gets to me.
At my lowest moments, my resolve to be thankful languishes into pleading with the Lord, something like, “Lord, does all-always-continually cover repetitive, mind-numbing factory work that didn’t even exist when you created the world?”
For drama, I sometimes expand the criteria. “Lord, what about when someone is wronged or mistreated or victimized by violence… instances of suffering or injustice...suffering losses due to natural disasters?
Something Jesus said that I quote often and think about even more - that believers are to “take heart” when we experience trouble because he has overcome all such trouble. (John 16:33). What does he mean by “take heart?” Other translations use “take courage.”
Seems like the Lord is conveying something along the line of, “I know life in the world is tough and troublesome but hang in there because I’ve got you. Trust me.”
I just re-read Joseph’s story in Genesis. At some point, he realized that nothing got to him that the Lord didn’t allow. What others meant to harm him, God used for good. (See Genesis 50:20). Grasping that, he was freed to receive and forgive the brothers who wronged him.
The Lord said something along that line to me the other day. “Glenn, I’ve got you, no matter what. Be thankful for everything.”
Other Bible stories besides Joseph bear this out, such as Job, Moses, David, Esther, Ruth, and Rahab to name a few.
In the third chapter of Ephesians Paul prays that we believers would “be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, ..." (Ephesians 3: 19b-20)
Assured that the Lord has me in hand and is able to do more than I can ask or imagine, I am free to be “Thankful for everything!”
I’m going to give that a go.