Thanksgiving – It Ain’t That Easy!
By Barbara Henderson
Well, here we are again. Thanksgiving is coming. Then it will be Christmas. Then we will start a new year. We will hope for a new year filled with joy and good things. In fact, we hope for a joyful holiday season. I know, the term ‘holiday season’ is now thought to be offensive, as it puts Christ out of the season. However, when I was growing up, the phrase ‘holiday season’ was meant to include the three holidays beginning with Thanksgiving and ending with New Years. Christmas was practically a ‘holiday season’ all by itself. Each particular holiday was an occasion to celebrate God’s love and mercy. The culture of that time pre-supposed that Jesus Christ was the reason for all three days of celebration.
Last week’s article covered the tendency of some people to spoil everyone’s holiday season by reliving past grief to the point that it seems the holiday season is spent in mourning. The article encouraged people to consider their grief well prior to the onset of the holiday season, and mourn as they feel the need; but, with God’s help, set aside their grief for the holiday season, beginning with thanksgiving. The Bible itself tells us there is a time to mourn. So, I am not saying that grief should be ignored, but that at some point, grief should not control your seasons of joy.
The spirit of thankfulness is a tremendous gift from God. It is the beginning of change for the better. It is the beginning of a new and better way of living. But, thanksgiving is also hard work. It leads the thankful heart into an unknown future. To be truly thankful, requires that one launch out into the wilderness without really knowing where they are going, or what they will actually be doing. I think that is why people hang on to grief. Grief is a known element. Everyone knows how to grieve and mourn. You just bawl your eyes out, or keep a pained look on your face while you go about your daily life. You focus on the past, another known element, and shield your eyes from an unknown future.
Thanksgiving, on the other hand, requires courage. Here’s why.
First, thanksgiving acknowledges your own inability to achieve or gain anything without help from God. Thanksgiving tells you that the things you have were not gained by your own hard work and perseverance. If you had gotten things on your own, then why the need to give thanks in the first place? Thanksgiving is a tool by which a believer may rid his or her self of pride. Thanksgiving leads to humility.
Somewhere in between thanksgiving and humility is repentance. As you begin to give God the credit for all your blessings, you become aware of more blessings that you have taken for granite in your life. You have a glimmer of understanding of how blessed and favored you are with God. Humility begins to grow in your life. From the extreme advantage point of a humble heart, you begin to see how pride has crept into your life. You begin to feel the weight of burdens you are carrying that you don’t have to carry. At some point, you begin to repent of thought patterns and a life style that thanks yourself for all your hard work and success. You become sorry for your sins. You come to an understanding that the measure of success or failure is not what is visible to the eye. It is not in the measure of what you have or don’t have. This requires a paradigm shift in one’s thinking.
This attitude adjustment, this change in your way of thinking, is not easy. In fact, it is so hard that many and even most people turn back. They set their shoulder to the plow and start out with their eye on the prize at the end of the row. But then, all the changes that thanksgiving brings become frightening. They would rather go back to the known elements of an unthankful life.
For those who persevere in developing an attitude of thanksgiving and praise, there is a tremendous reward. That reward is meekness of spirit. Meekness is the most powerful tool a Christian can have. Here is an exert from an article that I wrote on meekness some time ago.
‘Meekness - Meekness is reliance on God instead of yourself.
A mighty man of God was Moses; yet Moses was meekest of all men. Now how can that be? Simple. Moses, a former prince of Egypt, came to understand that through God working in him, he could accomplish more than all the mighty armies of Egypt. That is the meekness that we should seek. It leads us to understand that 'I can do all things through Christ which strengthen me'. (Philippians 4:13)
So, meekness does not mean 'I am a door mat. Come stomp on me!' It means that you have begun to understand that your success in any endeavor is not based on YOUR own abilities. Remember that Moses had plenty of natural abilities and talents. Yet, he set those aside in favor of reliance on the Lord.
Moses did spend 40 years in the wilderness caring for sheep between the time he rejected the power of Egypt and chose instead to be counted with the people of God. Like Moses, we may grasp the concept of meekness, but be slow to be able to fully implement meekness as a way of life. That means we should all get started working on fully relying on God instead of ourselves right away.
Right now, are you on the path to meekness; or, are you still trying to do all things through your own ability, wealth, or authority? Or have you set these things aside and chosen to rely on the ability, wealth, and authority of God Almighty?
No matter how great your personal talents and power, the arm of flesh will eventually fail you. If you were even greater than Alexander the Great, you would still eventually meet his fate. You would die, and your kingdom and possessions would be given to another mortal.
The inheritance God has for the meek is eternal. Reliance on God instead of your self is the path to success.’ (end quoted article)
This is just a simple explanation of the benefits of thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a process, not a holiday. Thanksgiving brings changes. Some of the changes will be hard. You can bet that some of the changes will be very hard. They will be so hard, than many will turn back from thanksgiving, and go back to living on their own. These people may be saved, but the joy of their salvation will be overshadowed with the cares of the world. Meekness will elude them all their lives. No matter what their earthly success may be, it will pale in comparison to what it could have been through meekness.
Perseverance in thanksgiving is somewhat like Peter walking on water. When he kept his focus on the Lord Jesus Christ, he stayed above the water. When he looked at the water, he began to sink into the sea. If a Christian gazes on the things of earth such as material wealth, hurt feelings, genuine grief, or bitter disappointments, they are going to be overwhelmed by these things and fall back into grief and things of the past. Their only option for help in their distress is to keep their eyes fixed on the Lord. And, I will be the first to admit that it really ‘ain’t that easy’. In fact, it is well night impossible sometimes. Thankfully, nothing is impossible with God. (Matthew 19:26, Mark 9:23, mark 10:27, Mark 14:26, Luke 18:27 )
So, there you have it. The question is, are you one of the few who will be willing to set a course of thankfulness in your daily life? Or, will you be one who finds the road of thanksgiving to hard and difficult?