“O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His mercy endures forever!” (1 Chronicles 16:34)
“In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus!” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
The annual Thanksgiving Day in America has grown to be a national festival. It is a day of rejoicing. It summons all the people to gratitude. It is fitting that a people who have received untold blessings, should set apart one day on which all should recall their mercies, think of God as the Giver of all and express their grateful feelings in words of praise.
But it is not intended that the other three hundred and sixty four days shall be empty of thanksgiving, because one is named as an especial day of rejoicing. We cannot crowd into any one day all the thanks of a year. Indeed, on no one day can we be grateful for another day. No one person can give thanks for a whole company of people. So no one day can give thanks for any but itself. All the days should be thanksgiving days. Any that is not, lacks something, and stands as imperfect days in the calendar. We are told that we may count that day lost in which we do no kindness to anyone. In like manner may be set down as a lost day that one in which no songs of gratitude rises from our hearts and lips to God.
Anybody can be thankful on one day of the year. At least it ought to be possible for even the most gloomy and pessimistic person to rouse up to grateful feeling, on the high tide of an annual Thanksgiving day. No doubt it is something to pipe even one little song in a whole year of discontent and complaining—the kind of living with which some people fill their years. God must be pleased to have some people grateful even for a few moments in a long period of time, and to hear them sing even once in a year. But that is not the way He would have us live. The ideal life is one that is always thankful, not only for a little moment on a particularly fine day. “Praise is lovely,” that is, beautiful—beautiful to God. The life which pleases Him is the one which always rejoices.
Nowhere in the Bible can we find either ingratitude or joylessness commanded or commended. In fact, all ungrateful feelings and dispositions are condemned. A great deal is said in disapproval of murmuring, discontent, worrying, and all forms of ingratitude. Again and again, we are taught that joy is the keynote of a true life. It is not enough to rejoice when the sun shines, when all things are going well with us, and when we are in the midst of prosperity; we are to rejoice as well when clouds hide the blue sky, when our circumstances seem to be adverse, or when we are passing through sufferings. In one of the Psalms, the writer says:
“I will bless Jehovah at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.”
He had learned to sing in the hours of pain as well as in the times of gladness. That is the way the Christian should do – nothing should hush his song or choke his voice of thanksgiving and praise.
The only way to get thanksgiving into its true place in our lives is to have it grow into a habit. A habit is a well-worn path. There was a first step over the course, breaking the way. Then a second person, finding the prints of feet, walked in them. A third followed, and then a fourth, until there was eventually a beaten path; and now thousands go upon it. One who has been full of miserable discontentments and utterly lacking in gratitude gets a new Divine impulse; and one day, he becomes really grateful for a few moments. The impulse comes again, and again he lets his life flow toward gratitude. Persisting in the disposition, his heart returns again and again to its gladness until, by and by, it has been lured entirely away from the old beaten paths of discontentment, discouragement, and unhappiness, and now always runs in the ways of gladness.
If we find that we have been leaving thanksgiving out of our lives, if we have been allowing ourselves to grumble instead of praise, and if we have indulged in unhappiness instead of in gladness; we should instantly set about breaking a new path – a thanksgiving path. It will not be easy at first, for gloomy dispositions – when long indulged – persist in staying in our lives. But they can be conquered; and we should not pause in our efforts until we have trained ourselves entirely away from everything that is cheerless and ungrateful, into the ways of joy and song.
It ought not to be hard to train oneself to be grateful. There would seem to be reason enough in every life for continual thanksgiving. It is true that there are days when things may seem to go wrong, but they only seem to do so. There is no doubt that all our circumstances bring blessings which we may have if we desire them. Even the hardest experience of any day enfolds within it a gift from God, if only we would receive it in faith and love. We think of sunny days as being good days, and we call unpleasant weather “bad.” But if we understood it properly, we would know that God sends the earth just as many rich blessings in His clouds as He does in His sunshine. The clouds bring rain; and after the rain, all nature appears to be clothed in fresh beauty. A simple, childlike faith sees God in everything, and is always ready to give cheerful thanks – even when the reason for the thanksgiving may not be immediately apparent.
May the Lord give us grace and strength to make gratitude a regular practice in our homes and families, and not just something we think about once a year. Pray that this may be the first day in this new habit! Happy Thanksgiving!
In a spirit of thanks for our Savior’s grace and mercy,
adapted from the writings of J. R. Miller
photo by Creative Clicks Photography on Lightstock.com