I’m looking forward to celebrating Thanksgiving with my family. But I’ll be the first to admit: I don’t always feel thankful. Life can be difficult, can I get an amen? I know many people who are suffering right now with physical pain, bad test results, sorrow over the loss of loved ones, worry over situations beyond their control, and the list goes on. Sometimes our hearts are so full of anxiety and our minds are occupied with worry and our joy and thanks seem a little out of reach.
So I wanted to share with you something that I started doing many years ago that encourages me, and I hope that you will be encouraged as well. It’s really nothing novel or extraordinary. It’s something so very simple, but I promise, it really does make a difference in my level of thanksgiving every day
I know, most people don’t have time for that, but we are all as busy as we want to be. We make our own schedule. Even if that schedule includes caring for a loved one, we can carve five minutes out of our day if we are really honest. So how does journaling make a difference?
Well, I have a process that I will briefly share with you. I begin with a daily devotion that I respond to in my journal. How did God speak to me through those words, and what do I want to say back to Him? Then I read a Psalm and journal my thoughts or a prayer back to the Lord. Then I specifically name my sins as the Holy Spirit reveals them to me and ask for forgiveness and the power to turn away from them. Next, I present my requests to God and ask for His help. Last, I make a list of everything God puts on my heart that day for which I am thankful.
I’m not sure why that part comes as the end, but that’s where God has always led me to do it. I never fail to list many things, even if I am going through a trial. Why? I think it’s because by this time, the Lord has done several things: spoken to me through a devotion and His Word, listened to my praise, forgiven my sins, and heard my prayers. I have reason to be thankful at this point because I have spent time with the Lord and His Word.
So, I asked the Lord this morning to show me some reasons in His Word that we have to be thankful, so that I could share them with you.
The Lord is righteous.
I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High (Psalm 7:17, NIV).
The Lord is our Help and our Strength.
“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song” (Psalm 28:7).
The Lord gives us joy.
“You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever” (Psalm 30:11-12).
The Lord rescues us from the enemy.
“O Lord, how long will you look on? Rescue my life from their ravages, my precious life from these lions. I will give you thanks in the great assembly; among throngs of people I will praise you” (Psalm 35:17-18).
The Lord is with us in our struggles.
“We give thanks to you, O God, we give thanks, for your name is near; men tell of your wonderful deeds” (Psalm 75:1).
The Lord has offered us salvation.
“Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song” (Psalm 95:1-2).
The Lord is good, loving, and faithful to us.
“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations” (Psalm 100:4-5).
He is OUR God!
“You are my God, and I will give you thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt you” (Psalm 118:28).
His love endures FOREVER!
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever” (Psalm 136:1).
We can be thankful for what God is doing in others’ lives.
“How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of God because of you? (1 Thessalonians 3:9).
We can be thankful for what God has done is our lives.
“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” (Colossians 2:6-7).
And yes, we can even be thankful in our current circumstances, not because of the circumstance, but because of WHO God is in the midst of it.
“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
“Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20).
If you are currently in a trial that makes it difficult for you to feel thankful right now, then this one is for you. You’ve probably heard it a thousand times, but let it roll over you today fresh and new and just for you:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
Call the Midwife is my favorite television show. The story is set in the East Side of London in the fifties, and portrays the role of a young woman who serves as a midwife at a convent. She is often faced with the realities of life for the poor, downtrodden, and outcast. In one episode, Jenny goes through an excruciating loss and is having a conversation with the head nun over her disappointment with God. The nun tells her, “God isn’t in the event, Jenny. He’s in the response to the event. In the love that is shown and the care that is given.”
When God allows difficult circumstances in our lives, He is there with us but not in the way we sometimes think–blaming Him or feeling disappointment with Him. He is there in the help and the strength He gives and the love shown through others who bear the difficulty with us. And for that, we can be thankful.
So as we sit down with our Thanksgiving meal, let us remember to be truly thankful–not necessarily for the circumstance, but for the One who has overcome.
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).