Thanksgiving. What comes to mind when you hear that word? What thoughts and feelings do you associate with Thanksgiving? Perhaps it’s a treasured family recipe that has been passed down for generations and is a staple on your Thanksgiving menu. Or the energy found in a house bustling with life and conversation with loved ones and friends. For some, the mere mention of the word “holiday” triggers an immediate stress response and anticipation of drama due to challenging family dynamics. Still for others, Thanksgiving pricks the heart, leaving a painful sting of grief, loneliness, or regret.
For me, Thanksgiving is an emotional buffet of sorts. Initially though, the thought of Thanksgiving initially transports me back in time to my youth. Thanksgiving was my Daddy’s favorite holiday. While he loved celebrating Christmas because of the birth of our Savior, and he rejoiced celebrating Easter and his hope of salvation found in the resurrected Christ, Daddy loved Thanksgiving because it was a holiday where instead of him receiving something from God, he offered a gift back to God – an overflowing heart full of thankfulness and gratitude. Of course, I’m sure that my Mama’s famous stuffing and gravy had a little something to do with his affinity for the holiday…! Thanksgiving embodies the essence of the life Daddy strived to live for God’s glory, in spite of adverse circumstances. Whether he and Mama were enduring a season of financial hardship, ministry uncertainty, chemotherapy, or any other gratitude-threatening situation that was possible, Daddy always found it within himself to be thankful in all circumstances.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (KJV), we are encouraged by Paul (who had previously been imprisoned for his faith and at the time of this writing, was fleeing Thessalonica under threat of persecution), to “Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing, give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
Is it really possible to be thankful…in every thing? Even when there’s more month at the end of the money? When your marriage is struggling? When your family is falling apart? When the diagnosis is terminal? When you are miserable in your job? Or when you have no job? When the children are out of control? When you’ve incurred the consequences of others’ destructive behaviors and decisions? When the grief of the loss of a loved one is overwhelming? When you are searching for direction and purpose in life?
Yes, gratitude and strife can co-exist. They are not mutually exclusive, lest we choose for them to be. Gratitude in spite of the lack of a happy ending (or happy intermission, for that matter!) is indeed possible in your life and not found only in the make-believe script of a tear-jerking Hallmark movie.
The life-changing truth is this: While we may not be thankful for all things, we can be thankful in all things.
Digging into the original language of God’s Word, I’ve discovered a deeper meaning to the aforementioned passage, one that is far more significant, and practical, than I’d ever anticipated. To soak in the application, we must examine the definitive elements of the passage:
Rejoice: (Greek=Chairo) meaning “to rejoice, be glad, be well”
Evermore: Greek (Hote; root words Hos and Ho) meaning “whenever, while, as long as“
In: Greek (En; root words Eis and Ek) meaning “in, by, with” as in denoting a fixed position (in place, time or state); towards, among, for (as in an action in the past); out (of place, time or cause)
Thing: Greek (Pas) meaning “individually, each, every, any, all, the whole, all things”
Thanks: Greek (Eucharisteo; root words Eucharistos, Eu and Charizomai) meaning “to be grateful, feel thankful; agreeable; well off; to do something pleasant, kind, grant forgiveness, pardon, give graciously and freely, restore one to another”
Will: Greek (Thelema; root word Thelo) meaning “what one wishes or has determined shall be done, of the purpose of God to bless mankind through Christ, desire, pleasure, take delight in; to be resolved or determined”
Piecing together these definitions brought new life and depth to this familiar passage and its application soaked into my soul, past my shallow exterior and temptation to scoff and half-heartedly remind myself to “just be thankful”. After much prayer, the Lord seemed to write this summary on my heart:
“Be well as you live life! Be glad! Wherever you are in life, whatever situation or circumstances in which you find yourself – past, present, or future – be grateful for the individual and collective blessings I’ve given you in spite of the current challenges and struggles you face, and without knowing when – of if – those trials will ever be lifted this side of heaven. Be resolved in sprit, determined to see the blessings I’ve given you throughout your life, and in faith receive the blessings yet to come because of your endurance through your present set of circumstances. How can you exhibit such gratitude? Lift your eyes off of yourself and set your gaze upon Me, so that you can look upon others. Present an offering of thankfulness to Me by being kind to others, granting forgiveness and extending grace with abundance just as I have to you, and providing encouragement and restoration to those who are weary. Why? Because I take great pleasure and delight in your thanks offering. Just as I purposed to bless mankind through the offering of My Son, Jesus Christ, so have I purposed you to bless people in your sphere of influence for My glory and namesake. And through your offering of thanksgiving, you will reap joy and gladness as you choose to worship Me for Who I am, trusting My heart towards you, rather than focusing on your struggles and circumstances and only seeking My hand.”
I can come before God with all of my challenges, struggles and tears and simply offer Him my hallelujah – “God be praised”. Even if it means my offering is a broken hallelujah.
As Daddy would say, “God is good, ALL the time. ALL the time, God IS good.”
- When challenging family dynamics arise…I can exchange my “ideal” for the “real”, choose to find contentment and security in the peaceful relationships I have in my life, and allow the peace that comes from Christ to rule in my heart and mind. (Romans 8:6; Colossians 3:15)
- When financial struggles surface…I can exchange my worry for God’s wealth, and trust that His resources will meet my needs in the present and future as they have in the past. (Matthew 6:25-34; Philippians 4:6-7; 19)
- When health issues are ongoing…I can exchange the pain for God’s promise of grace according to my need and healing according to His sovereign will on earth, and in heaven. (Psalm 103:1-5; 2 Corinthians 4:7-12; 16-18; 1 Peter 5:6-10)
- When I feel orphaned…I can exchange abandonment for God’s assurance that He will never leave me nor forsake me, and that I am forever His child. (Joshua 1:5,9; Psalm 139: 7-10; Matthew 28:20; John 10:27-30; Romans 8:38-39)
- When I feel hopeless…I can exchange my despair for God’s enduring hope against all earthly odds. (Psalm 10:17; Psalm 34; Psalm 71; Isaiah 43; Romans 15:13; Ephesians 3:20-21)
- When I feel aimless…I can exchange my desperation for God’s direction and walk toward Him with confidence that He will order my steps in the way I should go. (Psalm 37: 1-9, 23-24; Proverbs 3:5-6; Isaiah 42:16; Jeremiah 29:11-14; Jeremiah 33:3)
- When I am consumed with my human perspective of my circumstances and challenges…I can exchange them for the truth of God’s Word that says He will cause everything to work for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purposes for them. (Romans 8:28)
1. What circumstances or challenges are you currently facing? Which one(s) weighs heaviest on your heart, threatening to steal your thankfulness?
2. Identify which of the promises above are most appropriate to your circumstances, and spend time reading and praying over the Scripture verses.
3. Claim the truth of God’s Word that counters your challenging situation(s). Select at least one of the Scripture verses as your personal promise and commit it to memory. Then, continue to read, pray and recite this verse daily as your thanks offering to God.
4. Identify the blessings that you have been given, and take time to thank the Lord for them specifically, one by one.
How is your hallelujah this Thanksgiving holiday? Is it weak, or even broken? Spend a few minutes in worship as you listen to this song titled “Broken Hallelujah” by The Afters. Allow this song to minister to your spirit and put words to the prayers you’ve been unable to articulate. Reflect upon His faithfulness, His goodness, and His worthiness to be praised every day, in all seasons, in every thing.
“Broken Hallelujah” by The Afters: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pFDAyyFn3WY