Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Even in this unfamiliar season of the empty nest, I value its uncomplicated requirement of gathering with loved ones, preparing a meal featuring everyone’s favorites, and cultivating a spirit of gratitude to carry throughout the year.
Of course, that last one can be a little challenging, right? I keep catching myself this year casting a longing glance back over my shoulder at years of perfect attendance around my table when full family gatherings didn’t require air travel.
The question that nags and will not be ignored is this:
Can I be thankful NOW?
Knowing what I know about the sovereignty of God and the blessing that comes after the patient submission to his process of growing my faith, can I practice gratitude in my current circumstances?
I’m not interested in a bait and switch in which I light a candle, practice a brand of skillful denial of the obvious circumstances, and then declare myself patient or grateful–at least for the moment. According to the Apostle Paul, gratitude is more than a spontaneous response or a pumpkin-spice-feeling. It is a matter of obedience to the will of God.
Gratitude is more than a spontaneous response or a pumpkin-spice-feeling. It’s a matter of obedience to the will of God.Tweet
Gratitude is an Every Day Choice
Author and poet Wendell Berry put words into the mouth of a fictional, elderly widow named Hannah Coulter who, in addition to being a crackerjack farmhand when needed–probably making a great pie crust–also had a clear handle on her biblical theology:
You mustn’t wish for another life. You mustn’t want to be somebody else. What you must do is this:(Hannah Coulter, page 113)
Pray without ceasing.
In everything give thanks.’
I am not all the way capable of so much, but those are the right instructions.”
Following the Instructions for Gratitude
In this season of gratitude and pumpkin lattes, I will be focusing on those “right instructions,” knowing full well that I, too, am “not all the way capable of so much.” And yet this business of obedience to the Spirit of God is not to be confused with Operation Bootstrap. It is, rather, an operation by which, “the very God of peace will sanctify me wholly” through purposeful rejoicing in what is given and a prayer life that images the inhale and exhale of breathing.
Rolling into the month of November, whether your greatest challenge is deciding between pumpkin and apple pie** on the day of the feast–or whether God is choosing this season to grow you through adversity that requires more faith than you seem to have right now–let’s return to the words of Paul in the way we turn to our recipe for fool-proof gravy, knowing that even though we are not “all the way capable,” the instructions are good, for they are absolutely true, and they are given to us with love:
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (I Thessalonians 5:16-18)
**P.S. My advice: Go for a small slice of each.
Let’s return to the biblical instructions for gratitude in the way we turn to our recipe for fool-proof gravy, knowing that they are good, for they are absolutely true, and they are given to us with love: “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; give thanks in all circumstances.”Tweet
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