Nothing captures autumn more perfectly than the beauty of fall foliage, those bursts of radiant colors before leaves wither and fall to the earth in preparation for colder days.
Sweater weather, pumpkins (and any kind of latte related to pumpkins), football, food, family and friends. And, of course, Thanksgiving and Christmas. It is a wonderful season.
However, as much as I love Thanksgiving, I always found it odd that we choose the third Thursday of every November to celebrate thankfulness. As if one day a year is sufficient to celebrate what I consider the driving force of a truly fulfilled life – gratitude.
Yes, there is historical context for Thanksgiving which provides good reasons to detach from the rigid pace of work and life, to spend time with loved ones and eat more food than we normally would on any other Thursday. If we separate ourselves from the noisy commercialization of the holiday, we can find endless treasures worthy of gratitude. From the mysteries of our universe to the simplicity of a neighbor’s hug, we need more than a day in November to celebrate all we are thankful for.
And therein lies the rub. I’m thankful for…
Where it gets challenging, at least for me, is, can we be thankful in?
1 Thessalonians 5:18 encourages us to give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
The subtle difference of the use of “in” instead of “for” can become the greatest but subtlest difference in our faith journey.
My wife has suffered through health challenges originating with a deadly bacterial infection nine years ago. It has been one of her, and our, greatest challenges. Many times, we have given thanks for the days she has felt strong and herself.
We have given thanks for doctors and health practitioners that have treated and advised protocols that have helped her. We have given thanks for the support from our amazing families and friends. We have given thanks for a God who loves us and will never forsake us, even on the hard days.
But rarely have we given thanks IN these circumstances. It seems counterintuitive to be grateful in a circumstance we are praying to get out of. It’s easy to be grateful for healing, but much more challenging to be grateful in sickness. It’s easier to be thankful for a paycheck, but harder to give thanks in unemployment. And so on and so forth.
The essence of faith is believing in what cannot be seen. But believing is not just an esoteric philosophy hidden in the ether. Our faith journey requires action. It embodies a spirit of thanksgiving in and for all things. The Bible is filled with ancient and relevant encouragement around thanksgiving.
Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving… Be anxious for nothing, but in prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God… Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving… Enter His gates with thanksgiving.
As we enter this holiday season, my prayer for all of us (because all of us are facing some kind of challenge) is that we discover joy, peace and contentment through a spirit of thanksgiving for and in all things.