I love Thanksgiving. And I like it for all the reasons everyone else does. I like being with family, good food, football and a few days off work. How can you go wrong?
Conversely, from a Christian perspective, the celebration of Christmas and Jesus’ birth, as well as the resurrection and Easter celebration, may seem the most “spiritually” significant of holiday celebrations. And for good reasons.
But I love the purity of Thanksgiving. Distractions of toys, candy, bunnies, or commercialism aren’t as significant during Thanksgiving. (Until Friday of course!) It really is a fantastic time to stop and remember what matters most. When you think about it, being thankful becomes our anchor into the very heart of God.
To be sure, God’s Word says a lot about thanksgiving. Psalm 100:4 states, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.” Just a few chapters over, the Psalmist states, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever” (Psalm 106:1).
In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, the Apostle Paul writes, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” As we trust in Jesus, we can live this challenging passage, because the peace of Christ will rule in our hearts as we rest in Him, no matter the beauty or despair of our situation. Hebrews 13:15 says, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise — the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.”
I believe the root of that sacrificial praise is thankfulness for who Jesus is, and what He has done, because for a believer that just happens to be everything! When you stop and think about it, gratitude is the memory of a glad heart. With hearts changed by amazing grace in Christ, we certainly should have thankful and joyous hearts. Jesus is our anchor of peace and thanksgiving, no matter the place in life we might find ourselves.
For years my family has partaken in a tradition in which we pass around a bag of M&Ms, take several out one at a time, one person at a time, naming our greatest blessings. We quite literally count our blessings!
The magnificence of God’s grace is beyond measure when you stop and realize how blessed you are. And in all honesty, you may have had the toughest year ever, and are struggling to be thankful. Some people are overwhelmed with grief, stress, and are broken in a way that seems unrepairable. All the more reason to be thankful for Jesus, for it is He who fixes us, and only He who can mend our broken hearts and relieve our weary souls.
If you are struggling to be thankful, ponder the following questions: Are you breathing? Are you able to read this devotion? Are you eating a square meal today? And most importantly, do you know Jesus? As you and your family gather this weekend for food, family, and possibly football, I pray you are able to pause and reflect. Allow a glad and thankful heart in Jesus to grant you a peace that certainly passes all understanding (Philippians 4:6-7).
And whether you pass around the M&Ms or not, tell your spouse how thankful you are for them. Call your child. Hug them. Let them sit in your lap and watch a parade. Miss people who are not present, and love the people you are with. Enjoy a meal, and enjoy conversation. Watch football with your son, and go out and toss a ball during halftime if you can move! Thank a soldier. Be thankful for freedom to even being able to read this devotion without fear of persecution.
And most importantly, thank God for His never-ending presence. For He is the giver of every good gift (James 1:17). Thanksgiving wouldn’t exist if we didn’t have anything to be thankful for. But God makes it all possible. His grace beyond imagination gives us a reason to live with thankful hearts. Happy Thanksgiving, and be blessed!
Ashley Mofield is the Senior Pastor at White House First Baptist Church.