Is ‘Thanksgiving 2020’ an Oxymoron?
It’s official – Thanksgiving is cancelled. We’re facing a national shutdown, travel is being restricted and politicians and health officials are urging people to forego the traditional crowded family Thanksgiving feast and be content with a turkey sandwich eaten with gloves on with a couple of other loved ones behind sealed doors. And make sure to only take your mask off while you are actively eating or drinking.
How do we celebrate a holiday that focuses on being thankful in a time like this? There seems to be so much to be unthankful for. Give thanks in 2020? For pandemics? Closed businesses and lost jobs? Masks, sanitizers and restricted travel? Racial tension, protests, hatred and divisiveness? Fear and despair leading to record levels of depression and suicide? And there’s always the dumpster fire that is our national politics. Thankful? Grateful? Really?
In the face of these challenging times, it may be good for us to read an old, familiar verse. It may comfort us, although on second thought, it might just make us mad. Here it is.
“The Lord is my shepherd, I have everything I need.”
Seriously? In the face of all the 2020 carnage we just listed, can we join with David and make such a claim? As we prepare for a most unique Thanksgiving 2020, it would do us well to look more carefully at this audacious verse.
The Hebrew phrase is אֶחְסָֽר׃ לֹ֣א. The root is ‘chaser’, which is defined as “to lack, need, be lacking, decrease.” Throughout Scripture, it is used to mean: become empty (1), decreased (2), deprived (1), lack or lacking (9), made lower (1), be in need (1), scarcity (1), want (3), withhold (1).
Sound familiar? These are the taglines for our list above. Here’s the key. Preceding this powerful and descriptive term, David inserts a definitive לא, which negates the word immediately following it. The result is breathtaking. David is saying that because the Lord is our shepherd, we shall NOT be decreased, deprived, empty, lack anything, made lower, experience need, know scarcity, have want.
Put positively, because the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall increase, have everything I need, be full, be satisfied, lifted up, have abundance, be provided for, know no scarcity, be content. This leads to my translation of this verse as, “The Lord is my Shepherd, and in Him, I have everything I need.”
If this is true (and it is) it must lead us to four powerful convictions.
1) Having enough requires absolute trust.
I know the Shepherd, and I trust He will provide for all of my needs. Even amidst COVID-19. Even in 2020. Jesus said it this way, “If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:30-34
2) Having enough reorders our priorities.
I know the Shepherd, and what the Shepherd provides is all I need. That is an interesting and important twist. It says that it is our Shepherd, and NOT US, who defines what we need. If we are willing to let God define our needs, we can trust Him to supply them.
3) Having enough is a present tense reality.
I know the Shepherd, and as a result, my needs today are met. The verse says, “I have everything I need”, not that we ‘hope to have’ or ‘might have’ or ‘plan to have’, but God’s provision is a present reality.
4) Having enough is a declaration of sacred contentment.
I know the Shepherd, and therefore I am content. I have enough! Enough for what?
1) Enough to lay down in peace beside still waters
2) Enough to have my soul restored
3) Enough to walk through the valley of death without fear
4) Enough to trust God’s rod and staff and take guidance and discipline with joy
5) Enough to sit in the presence of my enemies with his anointing and an overflowing cup
6) Enough to live with hope all the days of my life
7) Enough to know whose I am and where my future lies
This Psalm is but one instance of a preponderance of Scripture that calls us to a life of abundance, trust and contentment. What would it mean for you today if you believed, really believed that God has supplied all your need? How might it change the way we celebrate Thanksgiving in this tumultuous season?
Let me conclude with three suggestions.
1) It would mean we would focus on what we have and not on what we think we lack, and the result would be thanksgiving and praise.
2) It would mean we would seek God’s guidance for how best to steward all that He has given, since we believe it is enough to do the work He called us to do.
3) It would mean we would drive away every fear of tomorrow, having faith that the God who supplied our need today in every area of our life will be faithful to do so again and again as long as He gives us breath and life.
I urge you to start this Thanksgiving season with this one phrase flowing from your lips, “I have enough.” I also encourage you to pray this prayer every day leading up to Thanksgiving Day.
“Lord, thank you for giving me enough time to accomplish everything you ask me to do. Help me to steward every minute wisely.
Lord, thank you for giving me enough financial resources to meet my needs. Help me to steward them faithfully.
Lord, thank you for giving me enough health to carry out the work to which you have called me. Help me to steward it joyfully.
Lord, thank you for giving me enough love and affirmation to satisfy my spirit. Help me to treasure it daily.
Lord, thank you for giving me you, that in you my soul will be refreshed. Wash over me Holy Spirit until my heart is content in you.”
Blessings and Deep Peace!