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Will Thanksgiving be hard this year? I mean, will it be hard to be thankful considering what we have been through these past 8 months? We’ve been locked down. We’ve been afraid. We’ve been uncertain. Some have lost jobs. Some have had to decide whether to put themselves in harm’s way. All of us have had to make tough decisions about risk just to go to the grocery store. Some have lost their lives. Some have lost loved ones. It might be hard to be thankful for the holiday this year.
And let’s not kid ourselves. This very contentious election will come and when Thanksgiving arrives, no matter who wins, a significant portion of us will be upset, disappointed and even fearful. Will it be easy to be thankful in that state? No
Yes, this will be a hard Thanksgiving…unless...unless we understand why God asks us to be thankful in the first place.
“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.” Philippians 4:6-7
Giving thanks to God helps us. It helps us to have peace. When we give thanks, we begin to see that God is with us through all things and that He is pouring out good things on us, even in the midst of a fallen world! We understand that one of the greatest things to give thanks for is God Himself—His presence, His care, His love walking with us THROUGH difficulty. He has a plan, and sometimes that plan includes “walking through the valley of the shadow of death,” but when we do we can “fear no evil, for thou art with me!”
When we count our blessings, we realize that this fallen world is not all there is! There is a powerful force for good who cares about us. There is a Father in Heaven who loves us and knows how to give truly good things to His children.
We also come understand a very basic truth—that we can control what we focus our thoughts on. If we allow our thoughts to dwell always on the troubles in our lives, we will not have peace. But if we remember God and His blessings, if we think on Him, His love and His benefits, His promises about Heaven and about wiping every tear from our eyes, then we will have more and more peace. When we remember His plans and His watch-care, and we lay our burdens before Him, we will begin to have that peace that passes understanding, even during very troubled times.
How do you keep troubles from taking over and dominating your thoughts and stealing your joy? “Don’t worry?” “Don’t stress?” “Don’t think about it?” If it were that easy, we’d all be happy all the time! No, the key to dealing with stress, anxiety, and pain is not to try to banish those thoughts totally, but to counter them with trust in God and thanksgiving for His blessings. After all, if you are in a dark room, you don’t just sit there and try to ignore the darkness, you shine a bright light!
How do you do that? Well here is some great advice from a hymn you probably know that was published well over a hundred years ago:
When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed, when you are discouraged, thinking all is lost, count your many blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord hath done. Are you ever burdened with a load of care? Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear? Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly, and you will keep singing as the days go by. When you look at others with their lands and gold, think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold; count your many blessings. Wealth can never buy your reward in heaven nor your home on high. So, amid the conflict whether great or small, do not be disheartened—God is over all; count your many blessings, angels will attend, help and comfort give you to your journey’s end. Count your blessings, name them one by one, count your blessings, see what God hath done! Count your blessings, name them one by one, count your many blessings, see what God hath done. -Johnson Oatman, Jr.
You see, God, in His great mercy and love, has commanded us to give thanks to Him, not just one day a year, but every day. He’s done this not just because He is worthy of all our thanks and praise, though He most eminently is. He’s done it because He knows we need it. He knows that it is good for us and that it is one of the keys to Christian Joy in troubled times because it reminds us that God loves us and that we can trust Him. So give thanks to God today, even if it’s not Thanksgiving Day. Count the many blessings He has bestowed upon you and bring His light into your life.