“Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
By Rev. Eric Blachford
As I write this November Grace Notes article, I can’t help but begin to think about Thanksgiving. In our family tradition, we share around the table that which we are thankful for from the past year. I have to tell you how thankful I am to be one of your pastors. I’m also very thankful that my family is adjusting well to a new home, community, and schools. I could write pages about all the things for which I am thankful. What about you? What is it that you give thanks to God for these days?
If you find it difficult to think of things you are thankful or grateful for, you aren’t alone. While 2021 has certainly been better overall than 2020, this year has not been without its challenges in our personal lives, our church, our community, our country, and our world. It’s easy to identify the things we are not thankful for. Each of us could probably create a lengthy list of everything we aren’t thankful for rather quickly.
That’s why, as we enter into this Thanksgiving month, I want to remind us that when it comes to giving thanks, Paul invites us not just to be thankful for, but thankful in. The Bible doesn’t want us to be thankful for all things. Not only would it be impossible, it’d really be rather cruel
to say, “I’m thankful for COVID-19 and the ongoing issues it’s created.” God doesn’t expect us to be thankful for COVID or any number of additional problems we have encountered in the last year. We don’t say thank you for everything. But we can say thank you in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in at this time. Do you understand the difference?
I can be thankful in all things because God is able to do far more than we could ever expect or imagine. I can be thankful in whatever circumstances I find myself in because I know God is with me. I can be thankful in all things because Paul also tells us that in all things God is working for the good of those who are called according to his purpose. We can give thanks in all things because God can always bring hope, redemption and good from within, whatever situation we find ourselves. This means we really can learn to be thankful in all things because we believe God is with us. When we intentionally stop to reflect on where we see God at work blessing us in all things, the whole world looks a little less dark. It looks a little less hopeless.
So, I want to challenge us as a church to spend the month of November doing something that my family does during dinner. We each go around the table and name “three good things” we’re grateful for from the day. Those three good things can be anything, big or small. I can’t tell you how many times simply naming three good things we are grateful about has changed the day of one or all of us at the table. Hearing others’ good things sometimes reminds us of the good things in our own lives.
So what do you think? Are you willing to accept this challenge? At some point, every day, stop and thank God for three good things in your life, your church, or the world. Don’t wait for Thanksgiving to remind you to be thankful and grateful. We are God’s people who are called to rejoice always, pray ceaselessly, and give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for us. In a world full of negativity, grumbling, and complaining we can choose a different way (God’s will or way) for us to live. Being thankful every day changes our hearts, returning them to resonate with whatever is good, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, and excellent and worthy of praise. It creates a joy that comes as we move from grumbling to gratefulness. Let’s make this month one in which we live with a sense of thankfulness in all things.