It’s Thanksgiving. Time to gather with loved ones, consume a lavish feast and count our blessings—and yet some of us can’t look forward to the celebration.
The holidays can represent the bleakest time of year for many people, precisely because of our hopes and expectations about what this season should bring us.
What if life doesn’t look like a Hallmark special right now?
What if the feast is nothing more than canned soup? Or the turkey tastes like ashes in your mouth because a recent death or divorce has left you reeling?
What if you’re too sick to get together with your loved ones? Or you haven’t been able to find a job for months?
Sometimes circumstances are so difficult that our thanks can feel forced and hollow.
If that’s the case for you this Thanksgiving, may I encourage you?
When you’re hurting, there’s no need to be all happy-clappy or paste on a big, fake smile. On the other hand, God deserves your gratitude—and he is pleased with even the smallest act of thanksgiving.
God knows your heart. He understands the limitations of your emotional energy.
He knows it’s easy to give thanks when you’re on the mountaintop and life is full of lollipops and sunshine—but not so much when you’re navigating the valley of the shadow.
Giving thanks when we don’t feel like it is a sacrifice. It’s an act of faith. It’s a way of saying, God, I don’t understand what you are up to, but I know you are with me and for me.
Thanksgiving is a form of worship. Just read through the Psalms, and you’ll see it over and over. Genuine gratitude is about placing faith in the solid reality of God’s love.
Consider what Paul writes to the Romans:
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose…If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?…Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” –Romans 8:28-39
Nothing you are going through has the power to separate you from the love of God. Nothing. Whatever you are suffering through, Jesus has already been there. He is with you now.
Do you know why thanksgiving is such a big deal to God? More than anything, your sacrifice of thanksgiving says to him,
“No matter what is going on in my life, no matter how much this hurts, no matter how many questions I have, I will cling to this one truth: I believe you love me.”
This is why your thanks matter to God. This is why it’s worth telling him what you’re grateful for, no matter how small your offering may seem or how disengaged your emotions may be.
You are lifting to God a sacrifice from the valley, a deep act of worship and trust in the One who made the ultimate sacrifice for you.
In so doing, you live out this truth: the reason we give him thanks no matter what is that he loves us no matter what.