(This post originally appeared on the Collide blog for Severn Run Youth)
A traditional holiday of parades, dog shows, and getting the family together to lie around and stuff your gut. There are people who don’t like Christmas or New Year’s, but Thanksgiving is just one of the day’s that’s loved all around. Why wouldn’t it be? It’s a holiday solely focused on being thankful for what we’re given and what we’ve gotten.
But here are some good questions to ask as Christians: Where does Christianity come into play? Can Christianity have a role in Thanksgiving if the holiday came around after the Bible was written? What does the Bible say about thanks?
Psalm 107:1 says: “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” Not only does this psalm tell us to thank God, but it gives us a reason too! We should thank God because of His goodness to us. I can think of many ways that shows God’s goodness to me, past, present, and future. I was born on American soil and into a loving family. I have good, Christian friends that stick by my side, and I have the hope and promise of heaven. And that’s just naming a few! Ask yourself: “What might I be taking for granted that God has blessed me with?”
We should give Him thanks because His love never ends. It hurts when it seems like the people around us, no matter the reason, have stopped loving us. But God never will. We have the promise that God will never abandon us, holding us in a love that’s eternal. Even when we sin, He will still love us no matter what.
Psalm 107:8-9 adds: “Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.” The psalm is telling us we should thank God, not just for His love, but for all that He gives us. Notice how at the end of the verses, it says that God “fills the hungry with good things”. God doesn’t just give us the things that keep us going, but things that satisfy us. We need air to breathe, but he didn’t have to make the trees that supply our oxygen so beautiful. We need food to nourish us, but God didn’t have to make it taste so good. Even when we feel lonely, God will reveal his presence to us. He doesn’t have to, but He wants to! These all sounds like reasons to be thankful to me!
Ephesians 1:15-16 says: “For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.” In these verses, the apostle Paul is thanking God for fellow Christians. You can be thankful for pastors/leaders at church for guiding you, Christian friends for supporting and loving you, Christian parents for raising you in God’s Word, or the one/ones who have helped you on the path of salvation and strengthened your faith. I thank God for a spiritual leader I knew named Jeff Nevin for teaching me more about God and leading a Bible study through the book of James that changed my way of thinking. And I thank God for a friend of mine named Kaitlyn Sharo who’s not just someone I enjoy talking to, but someone who will listen to me, calm me down when I’m going nuts, and is a godly influence for me.
Some of you may not be able to relate. You may have a really messed up family life, you might not have godly parents or supportive friends, and because of these things you might dread the holiday seasons. I get it. It’s easy enough to thank God for our phones, food, our talents, loved ones, good grades, or when life is dandy, but what about when life gives you a bag of lemons and smacks you in the face with it?
We tend to forget all about our blessings when we’re wronged, when we get caught up in our bad circumstances, when we lose something or someone, or when we just feel down.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 says “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Give thanks in ALL circumstances? Yep, ALL of them. Why does God want us to give thanks in the midst of hardship? I’ll tell you the answer flat out: God knows what is best for us, so by giving thanks, we get off of our sad selves and onto His goodness. In that way, it serves to guard against depression and loneliness. When we give thanks to God, our focus is turned away from the bad things and onto the good things in life. This increases our hope and faith in the Lord.
If you want to make giving thanks your habit then be purposeful about it. Make this Thanksgiving Day a turning point in your life. Here are some ideas for how to do it:
- Count your blessings every morning when you wake up or each night before you close your eyes. Count them physically on your fingers. You may even need to use your toes! See how many you can come up with.
- Write out your blessings in a journal every day after or before you do your homework, or chores, or dinnertime, or right before bed. Set a regular schedule to do this and stick to it.
- Purposely tell a loved one or special friend that you thank God for them and tell them why. Make it a point to do this regularly and it may just become a habit!
- Practice telling God “thank you” in the moment.
- when He gives you a good idea
- when your little brother says or does something funny or weird
- when you just tripped but you didn’t fall
- when you fell but no one saw it!
- when that difficult person does or says something that you believe will help you to grow in patience and love
- when that teacher or coach is challenging you to be better
- when you see something (or someone)beautiful
- Thank God out loud! Set aside a special time of praise once a week. Not to ask for anything, but just to express thanks to Him for everything you’re grateful for from the past week, big or small.
Naomi’s Nugget: When something happens that is disappointing, STOP! Thank God for all of things in your life that are going well or for His promise to never leave you nor forsake you.