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What Exactly are we Thankful For?

By Amy Friedl

Thanksgiving is a holiday that doesn’t seem to need a lot of explaining. When our kids ask us why we celebrate Easter or Christmas, we have a story to tell them and an opportunity to witness to them. When they question the meaning of "Happy New Year," we can tell them it’s simply a new year, but then we get into a time-space continuum discussion. When they ask about Thanksgiving, they seem satisfied to hear, "It’s a time to give thanks." They get it. And we’re happy to not have a complicated discussion standing in the way of basting the turkey. Even the world grasps onto the idea of Thanksgiving. Many take time out to spend with their family to be grateful. They know what they’re grateful for, but they may not realize who they are truly grateful to. For some, it’s just a blanket-statement, sent out to the universe as one resounding, "Thanks."

As Christians, is it easy for us to fall into the same generic gratitude? In our heads, we know that God has given us everything we could ever need. And we know our hearts are generally in the right place. We pull out the bread basket liner, embroidered with "Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!" (Psalm 106:1) We walk past the plaque in the living room reminding us "In everything give thanks." (1 Thessalonians 5:18) It can be so easy to turn Scripture into a cliché and to look away from the challenge it inevitably puts on our hearts.

When Paul encourages us to "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks" in 1 Thessalonians, he is not saying we are to be thankful for everything. I must admit, I’m never thankful for mosquito bites in the summer. But he is challenging us to be thankful in everything. We are to bless the name of God in spite of our circumstances, not because of them. We shouldn’t wait until the personal tragedy is over before thanking God for the chance to trust Him. Turning to Him ought to be the first thing we do in the midst of that tragedy. When we do that, we will "in everything give thanks."

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Looking back at the verse in Psalm 106, we should continue to read, for the verse doesn’t end there. "Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever." The psalmist here gives us another reason for thanking God. Because His mercy endures forever. He never tires of taking back someone who turns to Him. He is never short on mercy and opens His arms to us when we completely turn astray or when we forget to turn to Him first, even in a small trial.

The amazing thing about God is that His memory never lacks. We know that He knows our name and the number of hairs on our head. We know that He knows our future. We know "He’s got the whole world in His hands." But if we are to strive to be more Christ-like, isn’t that a trait we ought to develop within ourselves? If we find ourselves staring in the face of a trial, do we panic and try to solve the problem on our own? Or do we strengthen our "Blessings Memory" and turn to God? If we would remember first just how He provided in the past, maybe we wouldn’t be so quick to lose heart in the present.

And that is where I think Thanksgiving comes in. Take a look at Psalm 107:1-3:

Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy,
And gathered out of the lands,
From the east and from the west,
From the north and from the south.

This psalm reminds us that God is good. It points out that His mercy never ends. We remember these points when we read the verses. But let’s look further. The psalmist calls "the redeemed of the Lord" to remember this. He points out that we are redeemed and shouldn’t forget it! We are also reminded of specific times that God has provided in the past. In being thankful, it should be a given that we review God’s actions in our experiences with Him. This is what causes us to be thankful. God is loyal. He never forgets us. He always takes us in. Most importantly, He hasn’t let us fall in the past and He’s not about to let us fall in the future.

This Thanksgiving, take time in your heart and with your family to revisit specific times that God has provided. Review those times and thank God for His never ending mercy and constant loyalty. Create a seat at your table for those times and remind your children exactly what it is you’re thankful for. Try to resist the trend to throw "Be Thankful" into the atmosphere and hope God catches on to it. And next Thanksgiving, maybe your kids will start to come up with their own moments of thankfulness. Then we can teach them to apply that same gratitude to the future and God will bless us with children who aim to please Him as they serve our Almighty Loyal God.

© Amy Friedl
Amy Friedl is a high school English teacher by trade, stay-at-home mom by timing. She and her husband, Brad, live in Wisconsin with their three children. They enjoy spending time working on home projects and with family-both extended and church.


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