Giving Thanks

Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul—Psalm 66:16

Each year during the harvest season we put up a “thankful tree” on our dining room wall, made of simple brown construction paper with King David’s call to thanks from I Chronicles 16:34 inscribed on the trunk, “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.” On the nights we gather together to eat as a family, we close our meal taking turns writing down what we are thankful for on fall colored, construction paper leaves, which we then attach to the thankful tree.

It’s quite an experience to watch the little tree fill up with leaves, as we name our blessings one by one. It can be quite humorous at times too, as memorable and sometimes strange things are named, or as we explore with each other why we named a certain person, thing, or event. The work of naming blessings can also be quite revealing. It seems every year that an identifiable pattern emerges. In those early days of November, the blessings come easy—food, shelter, family, friends, church—but as the month waxes on, it takes each one of us longer and longer to name something. At times, we actually start repeating things we’ve already said, so we have to reference the tree to make sure we’ve not already mentioned this someone or something. It’s a little embarrassing. Though none of us would admit it, we seem to run out of things to be thankful for.

Paul says in I Thess. 5:18, “…give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” It’s one of the most shocking verses in all of Scripture. Give thanks in all circumstances. What on earth could this mean? I cannot speak for what your year has been like, but this past year in our family has been one of significant highs and significant lows. There are moments of almost unspeakable delight and joy, and then there were things we experienced that, humanly speaking, I pray we never have to go through again. Even so, all of this last year, according to the Scripture, is for thanksgiving. It’s hard to believe that at times, and even when you believe it, it’s harder still to know how to live it. This is why thanksgiving is a mystery at its heart. For to be thankful in every circumstance does not mean you have to love the circumstance. It means, rather, you love the God behind the circumstance.

To be honest, thanksgiving that arises from food, shelter, friends, and family will last only as long as those things. Such thanksgiving will disappear with those things. But thanksgiving that is directed to God for those things will last forever. Thanksgiving is the heartbeat of a life in love with God. May the Lord be pleased to grant us such a life together, both now and forever.

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