When Giving Thanks Includes More Than what Makes You Happy
I was asked by our local interfaith clergy group to say a few words on the topic of thankfulness. I was hesitant at first but decided to accept the invitation. Since then, I have been mulling over what to say. It occurred to me that the chance to speak was an opportunity for which I should be thankful. The opportunity to speak to an audience of diverse beliefs doesn’t come up every day. So I have been prayerfully considering what to say and that the Holy Spirit would guide me.
That said, a Scripture that comes to mind for this month’s Pilgrim is, Ephesians 5:18c-20.
“…but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,…”
In this text Paul suggests a relationship between worship and being filled with the Spirit. When Christians gather together in psalms, hymns, and in thanks to the Lord, His Spirit is in our midst and fills us. This is just like how God fills the temple in 2 chronicles 5:13-14. A part of this is our thankfulness.
We obviously have a lot for which we should be thankful. Jesus is our hope, salvation, and our Lord. Through Jesus the Father has established his Kingdom and we are blessed to be a part of it. As revelations 11:17 says, “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign.“ Paul doesn’t imply we should be grateful just for the good God has done. He says we should worship in thanks, doing so, always and for everything. Paul implies that what God has done should extend into the fabric of our lives. We should always be giving thanks. This means living a life of gratitude to God. We should also praise God for even the little ways He blesses our lives. Having said that, feeling grateful is not always easy. Hardships may make thankfulness difficult to feel or express. Hardship can make human beings callous. Yet I am encouraged when I witness those few people who discover a way to be thankful despite trauma or chaos.
They remind me of James 1:2-3 that says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” I think when Christians go through difficult times and find love, joy, and thankfulness, it is at that moment we are most like Jesus. At the very least we are like Daniel when he prayed and gave thanks despite the wicked plot prepared for him by his enemies in Daniel 6:5-11. Daniel was thankful, and in that dark cave filled with lions, God was with him. When we live a life of thankfulness we are filled by God’s Spirit. That may not save us from the lion’s den but God has already saved us from the lions.