I must admit I have misgivings about this time of year. Not that I am not thankful. I am. And I don't necessarily think that it is a bad thing to have one day to focus on thankfulness. My misgivings are that we seem to have reserved our thankfulness to this one day. We focus here. This day. And then we move on with our life. Our focus returns to struggles and to the material. Yes, we pause every once in a while to be thankful but more often than not we focus on the adversity we face. I am guilty of this as well.
Among other things, the Apostle Paul is called the Apostle of thankfulness. More than any other writer, Paul talks about thanksgiving. He thanks God incessantly:
God be thanked (Romans 6:17).
I thank God (Romans 7:25).
Thanks be unto God (II Corinthians 9:15).
We give thanks to God (Colossians 1:3).
Giving thanks unto the Father (Colossians 1:12).
We thank God without ceasing (I Thessalonians 2:13).
I thank Christ Jesus our Lord (I Timothy 1:12).
He thanked God for the saints:
I thank my God … for you all (Romans 1:8).
I thank my God always on your behalf (I Corinthians 1:4).
I cease not to give thanks for you (Ephesians 1:16).
We give thanks to God always for you all (I Thessalonians 1:2).
We are bound to thank God always for you (II Thessalonians 1:3).
He thanked God for those who sacrificed for t he Gospel:
Unto whom … I give thanks (Romans 16:4).
But thanks be to God, which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you (II Corinthians 8:16).
Which causes through us thanksgiving to God (II Corinthians 9:11)
Is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God (II Corinthians 9:12).
I thank my God upon every remembrance of you (Philippians 1:3).
But most importantly he taught us to be thankful FOR everything and IN everything:
In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you (I Thessalonians 5:18).
Paul taught us to give thinks “for all things”:
Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:20).
Being thankful IN all things and For all things implies a thankfulness each and every day. Not just when things are good; most certainly when they are not. In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. This is a hard thing to do. Our human nature cannot reconcile thankfulness with adversity. And yet we must because Saint Paul also makes another very important point regarding thankfulness. The failure to be thankful is the first step in apostasy and marks the perilous last days:
Because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened (Romans 1:21).
For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy (II Timothy 3:2).
I can't help but think that this is what we are seeing today. The news is full of strife, moral perversion, man following man ignoring the Voice of God. Is it a result of unthankfulness? St. Paul seems to say yes. At the very least it is a contributing factor. Our society has become so focused on "our truth" and our personal contentment that criticism and blame have become our battle cry. Life has become about our comfort here with no thought for eternity.
My goal this year is to write on my calendar each day something for which I am thankful. It may be something small. Most often it is. But the bigger challenge is to be thankful for those things in which we can find no good. It is a challenge, but as Christians, we need to make every day a day of thanksgiving and praise. Not just a particular day in November, but every day.
As you sit around the table tomorrow with friends and family and you are asked what you are thankful for, I challenge you to recall an adversity you faced this past year. Reflect on what you learned from it and how God used it in your life for the good. I am reminded of the words of a song written by on Moen and I leave you with this:
Give thanks with a grateful heart
Give thanks to the Holy One
Give thanks because He's given Jesus Christ, His Son.
And now let the weak say, "I am strong"
Let the poor say, "I am rich
Because of what the Lord has done for us"
May you have a blessed Thanksgiving.
Br. Boltoph OSB