Thanksgiving: Thanking God in Tough Times

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6

This week, those of us in the United States will celebrate Thanksgiving.  We remember what the Pilgrims did, thanking God for seeing them through their first year here in their settlement.  They were thankful for God saving many of them, although not even half their original number.  They were thankful for the crops they had harvested, after suffering from hunger the year before.  They were thankful for friends they had made, although many of their Native Americans neighbors were first seen as potential enemies.

God had indeed blessed those who remained.  And they were thankful.

Do you ever wonder if some of those few First Thanksgiving attendees were still stewing over all that was lost?  Did they truly feel thankful in their heart of hearts?  Did they desperately miss their former way of life, if for nothing else, that their precious loved ones were still with them, they ate familiar foods, and they thought they knew what to expect?

Maybe you have had a wonderful year, and your heart is bursting forth with thankfulness.  If so, I am so happy for you!  God has indeed blessed you richly!  For those who are struggling to feel thankful this week, you are not alone.  Often, in the midst of thanksgiving, pain is present.

I imagine for those remaining Pilgrims, that Thanksgiving was a day they simply focused on what blessing they had right then and there.  Maybe that present picture was not what they had imagined, or had hoped for, when they set out to cross the ocean, (life rarely is!), but after that challenging year, they saw the evidence that God truly loved them.  They could sit next to their neighbors, even those they might have originally labeled as enemies, and drink in the beauty of the colorful harvest.  Their stomach could eagerly anticipate what their noses already detected: a feast was on the way.  A feast with unknown foods, but they would be feasting just the same.  They would be feasting as God had planned.

We are to bring our requests before God, not with worry, but with thanksgiving.  When you think about that, is there a mental murmur of grumbling?  If we have a request, you might argue, it is usually not something we are joyful about.  Most of our requests are concerns.  Yet, the Bible is quite clear: we are to be anxious about nothing.

That includes not being anxious is we don’t feel all the warm fuzzies of thankfulness.  God appreciates it when we can list our blessings even in the midst of brokeness and pain. He appreciates when we can honestly list our human limitations, and ask for His help and grace.  When we are at the end of ourselves, and still can’t get to a place of not feeling anxious, then, He can reveal Himself to us.

We can acknowledge the blessings of today and still be mourning the loss of yesterday. We can miss someone dearly, and yet still praise God with our hearts and tongues.

He loves us.  It’s a simple sentence, but not a simple concept to wrap our minds around. He does loves us, and yet He still allows us to have challenges in this life.  He does that so we can learn to trust Him, no matter what.  He promises He will redeem everything, (Romans 8:28) and He does.  Even when it takes a lifetime.

I pray each of us can name the blessings of the present, no matter what we may have lost in the past.  I pray we each search for how God is going to use our pain for good, because He will.

Reflections:

Monday: How do you picture the first Thanksgiving?  Recall the historical facts of what the Pilgrims endured.  Imagine how you might have felt had you lived through that first year.

Tuesday: How has the past year been for you?  What blessings have you experienced?

Wednesday: How might you celebrate Thanksgiving in your heart, even though you are not living out life the way you had planned?

Thursday: How is God redeeming your pain? Are you willing to let go of the pain, and let Him take it?

Friday: What are you thankful for today, that you may have taken for granted before?

Thank you for reading!  Please return by December 2 for the next post.

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