I just took a long walk on a crisp autumn morning and thought through all of the blessings in my life. I ran out of walk before I ran out of thanks. For many of us, giving thanks this week will be as easy as having a second piece of pumpkin pie. Giving thanks is an act of supreme worship, and when life is good the gratitude trips off our tongue with joyful ease.
For countless more, however, this week will challenge us to our very core. The last thing on many minds will be giving thanks. There will be empty places at Thanksgiving tables, reminders of excruciating losses. There will be meals eaten quietly in hospitals and somberly beside hospice beds. There will be sorrowful memories of happy kitchens and warm dining rooms that now sit in piles of rubble and ash. There will be turkey consumed in bitterness and stuffing swallowed in anger and resentment. Too many hearts will be heavy, too many spirit’s discouraged, too many souls despairing.
Even in the best of times we can look deep in our souls and find unanswered questions, unrelieved pain and unresolved anxieties that can reduce giving thanks to a joyless ritual rather than a heartfelt expression of a grateful spirit.
How then do we prepare for this holiday in a way that can make it genuine and even transformational?
I say we become defiant. Now gratitude and defiance may seem strange bedfellows, but they are, according to Scripture, two sides of the same coin (see for example Job 13:15-16, Romans 5:1-5, Romans 12:12, 2 Corinthians 4:13-18, Philippians 4:11-13). For Godly thankfulness is an affirmation of our faith, not our feelings. Our gratitude is to a God who is always faithful, absolutely worthy of trust, completely for us, lavishly loving and unequivocally sovereign. There is no situation facing any person at any table on the face of the earth this Thanksgiving that God has not redeemed and overcome. No pain that he is not able to heal. No desperation he cannot turn to confidence and no discouragement he cannot transform into joy.
The key this week is not to question WHY we are thankful, but to remember in WHOM we are thankful. In good times and bad, Jesus is Lord. That affirmation has an astonishing affect – it sets us free. When we are able to look at the worst that life can offer, and in its midst affirm who our God is and claim for ourselves the certainty of his love for us, we will, as Jesus did, “see Satan falling like lightening from the sky.” And we will be set free to praise and thank him in the very midst of all that life is throwing at us.
This is the defiant cry of Thanksgiving. It is illogical to the world, and transformational to our souls. This week, as you prepare your hearts for the day of Thanksgiving, count your blessings… but count on your God even more. And if that constitutes for you a cry of defiance, cry it out with all your heart. Your God is listening and already at work to bring you victory. That is worth all of our gratitude and praise.