Thanksgiving & The Hard Stuff: Four Words To Change Your Life

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day, my very favorite holiday of them all! How will you celebrate?
Will you gather with family for a feast of mega proportion? Will your church have a Thanksgiving Day service? Will you watch football, before heading outside for a friendly family game of your own? Will you watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, all the while glad you’re not in that throng? Will you serve meals at a local food ministry? Will you gear up for Black Friday shopping, or will you be one of the horde that hits the stores Thanksgiving evening?

A large part of the reason I hold Thanksgiving so dear is that my family always gathers at our East Tennessee mountain home, a tradition since my now-20-something children were born. In fact, even as I write this blog, I’ve settled into my favorite recliner, about four feet from a crackling fire. The only sounds in the house are the ticking of a clock and the sizzles and pops of the burning oak, hickory, maple and poplar. My wife just left for the grocery to stock up for the blessed arrival of family later today and tomorrow. The quiet peace of the cabin will soon be replaced by loving embraces and the playful bantering of “inside family” humor. The teasing, sarcastic gene flows freely in the Wilson family blood. Yet, I love every minute of it.

Undoubtedly, I’ll be awakened early on Thanksgiving morning by the chatter of my 18-month-old grandson, Bryce. My first job, as always, will be starting a fire. We’ll burn our way through much of the rick that is neatly stacked outside. Wonderful aromas will soon waft from the kitchen as SportsCenter provides all we need to know to get ready for the weekend’s games. Per usual, I’ll moan a bit about having to watch Dallas and Detroit, but will look forward to seeing RG3, as the Redskins will play the Cowboys this year. Before the big meal, I’ll take Bryce on my traditional scavenger hunt for leaves, hickory nuts, pine cones, acorns and other bits of nature for the table’s centerpiece. The day will end with our annual family photo, which will grace the front of our Christmas card for the umpteenth year.

Most important, though, we won’t forget why we are here, together, as a family, on this day.

Like most, we will express deep gratitude to the Lord for His blessings throughout this year. We will joyfully testify about family, friends, health, jobs, homes, relationships, finances, and a host of other encouraging things in our life.

But, what about the hard stuff? What do we do with that on Thanksgiving Day? Do we just sweep it under the proverbial rug for 24 hours while we focus on good things?

The Bible gives a clear answer – certain direction – in just four words that penetrate deeply and counsel wisely.

“In everything…give thanks.”

The power of this command is markedly profound, isn’t it? Let me state it again, with emphasis. “In everything, give thanks.” Yes, “everything” is the key word, the crux. It’s the word on which this amazing instruction, penned by Paul in his first letter to the church at Thessalonica, stands.

We are to be thankful for all of our circumstances.

Oh, it’s so easy to have a grateful heart for the good and positive circumstances in our lives, for the things mentioned above. But, what about the hard stuff, the issues that darken every corner of our  world? Surely, we don’t give thanks for the concerns of our hearts that paralyze us with fear and bring us to our knees crying out for God’s help.

What about the cancer diagnosis? The marriage that’s falling apart? The business heading to bankruptcy? The home in foreclosure? The estranged family relations? The beloved family member with Alzheimer’s? And the many other unsettling, unbearable, overwhelming challenges of life?

I must admit that although I am quick to thank God for my blessings, I usually don’t thank Him for my affliction. However, with the knowledge that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, we know this admonition to “give thanks for everything” is not just an expression of a random thought, but is a loving command of the Lord, spoken through the apostle Paul.

And that changes…everything, doesn’t it?

When your tomorrows are uncertain at best, there is unwavering peace today by trusting in our faithful, loving Lord. That happens when we realize – and truly believe — that our loving, sovereign Lord is in control of all things and is causing all things to work together for GOOD, for those that love Him. With that blessed hope, how can we not be in a state of gratitude!?!

As your family gathers for this season of Thanksgiving, and then as we move on in the days ahead, my encouragement to you (and to me!) is to live each day, each moment, in view of these four amazing words. In. Everything. Give. Thanks.

Not that it will be easy, mind you. With our brokenness, it’s just not our natural reaction. To offer praise and gratitude to God for the hard things takes a little getting used to. But the ensuing peace of God, as He changes our attitude and outlook, is a blessing of vast measure.

By the way, let me share the rest of the fifth chapter’s 18th verse – “In everything, give thanks…for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

Our grateful heart – in all circumstances — is the very will of God! His will for you and for me. No matter how we feel. So, whether it’s the fourth Thursday of November or any of the other 364 days of the year, let us remember…

When you don’t know what to think, just thank.