Several places in the Bible encourage us to be thankful to God regardless of our circumstances. St. Paul encourages us to “Give thanks in all circumstances.” (1Th. 5:16)
After Nehemiah led an effort to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem following their destruction by the Babylonians, he arranged for an elaborate dedication ceremony “to celebrate joyfully the dedication with songs of thanksgiving and with music of cymbals, harps and lyres.” He said, “I assigned two large choirs to give thanks. One was “to proceed to the top of the wall on the right…and the second choir proceeded in the opposite direction.” (Ne. 12:27 – 47)
In a couple of days we will observe a national holiday for the ostensible purpose of thanking God for the many blessings he has conferred upon our nation. This follows a precedent established by some of the earliest Christian settlors to the shores of this continent.
Why is thanksgiving important to us individually and collectively as a people?
First, it helps us to acknowledge that we are not in complete control, but in fact dependent upon someone other than ourselves for some of the positive things that happen to us in our lives. Both God and others contribute to many of our blessings. Even abilities and talents that we may attribute to ourselves are given to us by God, and we should acknowledge their true origins.
Second, it is God’s will for us to acknowledge him and to be thankful for his provision, for as Paul says, giving thanks “is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Th. 5:16)
Third, by acknowledging God and others with thanksgiving for our needs, “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard our hearts and minds.” (Phil. 4:6)
I have previously written about my brother and his wife who were rescued by boat from their home during Hurricane Harvey in Houston. The flood destroyed most of their belongings. Their first floor had to be stripped down to the studs. To further compound matters, my brother has serious health issues.
But in the midst of their many challenges, they are thankful for Christian friends who took them in immediately after the flood, for a daughter that they are now able to live with while their house is being rebuilt, for another daughter and son who regularly come to visit them from distant locations and assist them, for the excellent medical care my brother is now receiving and for their loving friends who take them to church and Bible studies and support them in prayer and various acts of kindness.
Being thankful gets us out of ourselves, brings joy and peace to our hearts, and helps align our lives with God’s will.