“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Thanksgiving is a choice. Because if we wait until the time is right, if we believe that thanksgiving is only expressed in prosperous times, when enjoying perfect health, budget surpluses, and when peace on earth reigns — I’d guess thanksgiving wouldn’t apply to our practice of faith at all, would it?
Saint Paul encouraged the people of Thessalonica to “give thanks ALWAYS”. He was writing to a fledgling church bowing under the pressures of the culture. Early Christians there were targeted for unpatriotic behavior and often called to testify their loyalty (or not) to Julius Caesar and Emperor Octavian, considered widely as “God” and “son of God” respectively.
Under these oppressive cultural and political circumstances, why would you give thanks? When likely suffering from some form of persecution, for what would those Christians be thankful?
Saint Paul wasn’t naive. But he was wise. Because a heart oriented in faith in Christ, is a heart that instinctively seeks to emphasize the good, the positive, the hopeful, the silver-lining. Otherwise, why have faith? There is bad, to be sure. But there is always also some good. What is the good, even in a bad situation?
A loving phone call. Someone’s smile. A grandchild’s laugh. A note in the mail from a friend. Warm, sunny weather in Fall-time, a restful night, a few pain-free hours, etc., etc., etc.
A heart of thanksgiving does not live in denial of the harsh realities of life. It only holds those harsh realities in the larger perspective of faith. And our very lives are held always in the hands of a loving God. The end of history is the triumphal God the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit. Despite all that is bad in our world, we ARE heading toward that end where the Lord stands victorious!
Thanksgiving is a discipline because we have to be intentional about it. It isn’t always easy. We are called to make the time to remember the blessings of each day, no matter how tough it can get.
In an article written to the “Canada Lutheran” magazine this past summer (Vol.26,No.6,p.31), Bishop Michael Pryse of the Eastern Synod – Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada relates what someone once suggested to him: “Life is not just a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, ‘Wow, what a ride!’ That’s the kind of spirit,” concludes Bishop Pryse, “I’d like to see more of in our churches.”
It’s the spirit of celebration and thanksgiving, despite the circumstances.
Happy Thanksgiving all!