Look Up this Thanksgiving
“Every day I take a walk in the neighborhood,” I explained to my hairdresser as she cut my hair. “After having had rheumatoid arthritis for over 50 years, I am thankful that I am still able to take walks.”
We were discussing my recent foot surgery that had me in a wheelchair.
Later, I thought about my comment to my hairdresser about being thankful. I didn’t actually have a sense of gratitude for being able to walk. But, then, I considered that thankfulness is more than a feeling.
Not Necessarily an Emotion
Although I didn’t have a feeling of thankfulness that I had the ability to take walks, I do remember times that I did have that sense of gratitude. I remember the time I was so thankful just to be outdoors after a two-week stay in the hospital and not being allowed to go outside. I remember feeling gratitude when I finally could be with my children again after an almost month-long hospital stay. I remember my sense of thanks to eat again after yet another hospital stay when I was not allowed to eat for a couple of weeks.
And the list could go on. But the point is, that the feeling of thankfulness often comes after something has been lost and then restored.
But must we lose something or someone to be genuinely thankful?
A feeling of thankfulness is not necessary to be thankful. Stated another way, gratitude is not necessarily a feeling or an emotion. Sometimes thankfulness is a feeling, of course. But more often, thankfulness is an act of obedience. It is an act of our will, a discipline of the Christian life.
Not What I Wanted
Sometimes I look at my life or the lives of others and think, “This is not what we wanted or planned.”
Not that I had any conscious clear-cut plan for my life. But I certainly knew when something happens that was not part of what I would have wanted. I didn’t want that miscarriage. I didn’t want rheumatoid arthritis as a teenager. I didn’t want low vision.
But every time something came into my life, big or small, that usually began a process of discouragement, pain, ungratefulness, and torment. As a Christian, the fact that I easily became discouraged should have been a clue that I was pursuing the wrong priorities. That my eyes were on the wrong things.
Forty-seven years ago when I recommitted my life to Christ, I decided to obey him and not live for myself. I didn’t totally understand what that would involve, but I did know it meant obedience to God’s Word. Before that time, my goals had been to have a comfortable life and financial stability. But those were never God’s goals for me. He wanted me to glorify Him and love Him and obey Him. That process of being changed into a Christ follower is still going on today.
Not Ready for the Thanksgiving Holiday
Yesterday, still in that wheelchair with my foot healing from surgery, I realized the Thanksgiving holiday was almost here. The past three weeks, since the surgery, had been more difficult than I anticipated. As I managed the pain, lack of independence, and frustrations of a new way of living, I often felt discouraged. I wanted to get back to my pre-surgery state, with my foot fixed, of course.
In those three weeks, I had little Bible study or prayer. Most days I still chose an encouraging verse to focus on, but the focus seemed to get lost in my negative thinking.
However, as the pain subsided, yesterday I looked out the window and thanked God. I thanked Him for the sunshine and gentle breeze blowing the last remnants of leaves on the trees. I thanked Him for what I was still able to see in the yards around us.
“But this is all wrong!” I thought. “Those should not be the first things that I think of when I consider what I am grateful for. All those things can be taken away in an instant.”
So, what should I primarily be thankful for? What is the answer? How can I be thankful even when my body hurts and things don’t go as planned?
Not a Complex Solution
I think the answer comes to us in Psalm 106:1, Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! (ESV)
When we are primarily thankful for things and people, there will be an undercurrent of anxiety because those things and people can be taken away. While being thankful for people and things has some validity, God has made a way for his children to have a deeper, more genuine gratitude.
Our thankfulness needs to be tied to something that does not change, that we can count on no matter what hard things come about in life. The only unchanging aspect of life is God and who He is. Psalm 106:1 tells us that God is good. It tells us that His love endures forever.
That is enough. Enough to draw our hearts through an act of our will to thankfulness and then enough to flood our hearts with of gratitude when we consider this truth. When we consider that the living, eternal, all-powerful God is good, is the actual author and definer of goodness, it is enough to give us a lifetime of thankfulness.
Now I believe I am ready. Ready for the Thanksgiving holiday and ready to give thanks for what cannot be taken away. Ready to give thanks, though it may be an act of my will, in the hope that it will plant seeds of a feeling of gratitude.
And as the holiday season approaches, may I remind you that suffering doesn’t take a holiday. Your encouragement doesn’t need to either.
To make it easy and affordable for you to encourage others, I am offering the following gift books on sale through the end of this year. Each of these gift books, which can be passed on as an enhanced greeting card, have 40 pages of text with color illustrations and are priced at the low price of $6.99 (regular price $7.99).
Descriptions and previews for all these books may be viewed at my website, ForeverWaters.com.
This is a great time to stock up on these books to have them available to pass on in the days ahead to those who need encouragement. Net proceeds will be donated to the support of orphans through GlobalFingerprints.