“Let us come before God with thanksgiving ” (Psalm 95:2).
Every morning, I begin my day by reading a devotion from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. These devotions have dwelt on the concept of thanksgiving for the last little while, probably because it is an American publication, and the fourth Thursday of November is the day Americans celebrate Thanksgiving Day.
The reading from November 22 was particularly inspiring to me. Sarah wrote how a thankful attitude “opens windows of heaven … as you look up with a grateful heart, you get glimpses of God through those windows. You cannot yet live in heaven, but you can experience foretastes of your ultimate home.” I have a rather active and visual imagination, and these words gave me a wonderful mental picture that I will remember for a long time.
I also keep a calendar journal as part of a year-long program and this month the entries center on gratitude. As I looked up from that devotional reading and began to think about what I would include in my calendar journal, I gazed out the window and was overwhelmed with gratitude for ALL the blessings God has showered upon me. It is easy for me to feel God’s loving presence and give praise and thanks when I remember the good things or when I imagine even better things. It is harder for me to remember that God is always with me when I am irritated, frustrated, upset, or angry. These days my mental state is often influenced—and not in a good way—by the continuing pandemic.
“Arggh – I forgot my mask and have to go back to the car.”
“Can you believe it? I spent $40 on a COVID test to go to the US, and no one asked to see the results or even asked if I had been tested.”
“Just why can my extended family go for dinner at a restaurant, but not have dinner together in our home?”
It is during those frustrated, irritated, angry times that I am prompted to remember that most of my problems are certainly not that onerous—and also the words of 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” This verse always reminds me of an incident in the book The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom during her time in the Ravensbrück concentration camp. Corrie and her sister, Betsy, have read this passage and are giving thanks for what they have—that they are still together, they have a Bible, the crowded conditions mean they can minister to more people. This one was a stretch for Corrie, but when her sister gave thanks for the fleas in their bedding, Corrie admits she said the words, but didn’t mean them. They find out later that the fleas are indeed a blessing, for once the women are in that verminous dormitory, the guards don’t bother them for fear they too will be infested by fleas. As Betsy reminded Corrie—we are instructed to give thanks in all circumstances, not just pleasant ones.
So … I give thanks to God for COVID. I am thankful we have easy access to masks and are wearing them to protect us and others from disease. I am thankful testing is available and we are able to travel again. I am thankful we can have family gatherings. What else am I thankful for? Well, I am certainly thankful that we can once again attend worship services in person. Much as I appreciated listening to the worship services on my computer in my pyjamas, (and perhaps liked a little much) I have a whole new appreciation of the fellowship experienced when worshipping in person. The psalmist hit right on the spot with “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name” (Psalm 100:4).
I am thankful that this Sunday marks the beginning of the season of Advent. I look forward to Christmas and the celebration of the coming of our Lord and Saviour. And I am thankful for the words of Sarah Young who tells me that “thankfulness is not some magic formula. It is the language of LOVE, which enables you to communicate intimately with God. A thankful mindset does not entail a denial of reality with its plethora of problems. Instead, it rejoices in Jesus our Saviour, in the midst trials and tribulations.”
So, I wish you “Happy Thanksgiving”—now and always!
“For everything God has created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving” (1 Tim 4:4).