The Defiant Cry of Thanksgiving
Learning How to Give Thanks
I just took a long walk on a snowy November morning and thought through all of the blessings in my life. I ran out of walk before I ran out of thanks. For many of us, giving thanks this week will be as easy as having a second piece of pumpkin pie. Giving thanks is an act of supreme worship, and when life is good the gratitude drips off our tongue with joyful ease.
For so many more of us, however, this week will challenge us to our very core. The last thing on our minds may be giving thanks. After all, this is the week after Paris, which followed Kenya, Beirut and Mali. This is the week after Russian plane bombings, battles over refugees and more violence on American streets. Locally this is the week after an historic storm that caused chaos for hundreds of thousands. And it is the week after two beautiful young ladies were in a horrific accident, taking the life of one and leaving the other clinging to it.
So how do we give thanks in THIS week? But there is more.
This week there will be empty places at Thanksgiving tables, reminders of devastating losses. There will be meals eaten quietly in hospitals and somberly beside hospice beds. My father will spend this week in just such a hospital recovering from cancer surgery, as will so many others. For others there will be turkey consumed in bitterness and stuffing swallowed in anger and resentment. Too many hearts will be heavy, too many spirit’s discouraged, too many souls despairing.
Even in the best of times we can look deep in our souls and find unanswered questions, unrelieved pain and unresolved anxieties that can make giving thanks an empty ritual rather than a heartfelt expression of the spirit.
How then do we prepare for this holiday in a way that can make it truly genuine and even transformational?
I say we become defiant. Now gratitude and defiance may seem strange bedfellows, but they are, according to Scripture, two sides of the same coin.
For godly thankfulness is an affirmation of our faith, not our feelings.
If we believe Scripture, our gratitude is to a God who is always faithful, absolutely worthy of trust, completely for us, lavishly loving and unequivocally sovereign. There is no situation facing any person at any table on the face of the earth this Thanksgiving that God has not considered, redeemed and overcome. No pain that he is not able to heal. No desperation he cannot turn to confidence and no discouragement he cannot transform into joy. This does not reduce our pain or relieve all of our doubts, but it orients us in the right direction.
This week I encourage us to go beyond just remembering WHY we are thankful, and to keep our focus on the One in WHOM we are thankful. In good times and bad, Jesus is Lord. That affirmation can work in us a sense of freedom. When we are able to look at the worst that life can offer, and still affirm the sovereignty of God and the certainty of His love for us, we will stand with Jesus and see “Satan fall like lightening from heaven.” (Luke 10:18) And in that confident and courageous affirmation, we will find the freedom to praise and thank him in the very midst of all that life is throwing at us.
This is the defiant cry of Thanksgiving. It is illogical to the world, and transformational to our souls. This week, as you prepare your hearts for the day of Thanksgiving, count your blessings… but count on your God even more. And if that constitutes for you a cry of defiance, cry it out with all your heart. Your God is listening and already at work to bring you victory. That is worth all of our gratitude and praise.