Reflections on Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is right around the corner which has got me thinking about the sometimes strange interplay between our thankfulness, our suffering and our identity in Christ.

Every now and then you’ll meet someone or perhaps you’ll be someone (I know I’ve wrestled with this) who can’t tolerate the coexistence of suffering and thankfulness. Some of us are simply convinced that a thankful heart will cancel out the legitimacy of our suffering. That if we give way to true full throated thankfulness, people will start forgetting our pain and trials.

Actually this is the farthest thing from the truth. When we’re thankful to God for all the gifts he’s given and especially the sending of his Son to die and live for us, people are not less interested in walking alongside our suffering, but rather we become less invested in it. Our hardships are not the definitive part of our life that we must make sure everyone knows about us, rather Christ in us, is the thing that cannot be contained and must be made known to everyone we meet. Our sufferings do not disappear because we’ve sprinkled magical thankful dust on them, but now they serve the cause of magnifying him as part of the story he’s given us.

Thanksgiving is powerful, to be sure, in as much as it focuses on the pinnacle of all things to be thankful for: the word of truth, the Gospel of Jesus, the grace of God to save and sanctify us and the Triune God himself. The world has tapped into the remedial power of thanksgiving–godless people recognize that focusing on the good things in life rather than the bad makes you a happier person. But this is the teeniest, tiniest taste of what thanksgiving affords. Even thanksgiving that is misguided in its direction (thankful to stuff rather than to the Giver), can have a strong impact on someone’s life.

Yet, we who have Christ must ponder how true thankfulness for the most thank-worthy event and Person in history transforms the human heart. It is part and parcel of our new birth and identity in Christ. When our minds are made alert to the Gospel and the Spirit is blowing life into us, the warmth in His breath is thankfulness. Thankful people are genuinely warm. I’ve never met a cold person with a thankful bent.

Oh my prayer for this heart of mine is warm, glad-hearted thankfulness– first and foremost to God for his sending Christ into the world on a saving mission and Christ imparting the Spirit, then along with those, that I give thanks to God in all things and every circumstance.

Even in lament, our identity as God’s children give us reason for thanks. Psalm 73 is a psalm of lament, and God’s people end it like this:

“But we your people, the sheep of your pasture,
will give thanks to you forever;
from generation to generation we will recount your praise.”(Psalm 79:13 ESV)