Americans of all ages have been suffering this year from quarantines, stay-at-home orders and lockdown.
Churches and ministries have closed or drastically downsized.
Kids are being kept home from school in many counties in many states.
Millions have lost their jobs.
Thousands of small businesses have been forced to close for good.
The economy is in shambles for many.
Many who are out of work have exhausted all available unemployment benefits and are falling into extreme poverty.
Suicide rates are increasing. Drug use and domestic abuse are skyrocketing.
And a quarter of a million Americans have died from the virus.
Meanwhile, the COVID pandemic rages on…not ending.
With all that’s happened in 2020, how can we be thankful about anything this year at Thanksgiving?
If we will just slow down, take a deep breath and shift our focus from ourselves and our circumstances to our Creator and Savior, we will soon realize we actually have much to be thankful for – even during a pandemic.
Here are just a few things I’ve learned from the Bible that I believe will help you today.
1. The Lord is with us no matter what we are going through, and He will never leave us or abandon us.
In Joshua 1:5, the Lord tells Joshua, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
This is repeated again in Deuteronomy 31:6. And it is quoted by the writer of Hebrews in Hebrews 13:5. Apparently God wants to get the point across that He will always be with us no matter what.
Also, in Joshua 1:9, the Lord tells Joshua, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
2. God’s love is constant, unconditional and infinite. Nothing can separate us from His love.
Read this a couple of times and let it sink in:
“So now I live with the confidence that there is nothing in the universe with the power to separate us from God’s love. I’m convinced that his love will triumph over death, life’s troubles, fallen angels, or dark rulers in the heavens. There is nothing in our present or future circumstances that can weaken his love. There is no power above us or beneath us—no power that could ever be found in the universe that can distance us from God’s passionate love, which is lavished upon us through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One!” (Romans 8:38-39, The Passion Translation)
And Romans 5:8 reminds us, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
3. God wants to help us get through difficult circumstances, not keep us from experiencing them.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present and well-proved help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, and though the mountains be shaken into the heart of the sea.” (Psalm 46:1-2)
The Word of God is full of passages like this. Here’s another:
“The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.” (Psalm 28:7)
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)
4. The Lord has a purpose for everything He allows us to experience.
“For the LORD of hosts has sworn, saying, ‘Surely, just as I have intended, so it has happened, and just as I have planned, so it will stand…’” (Isaiah 14:24)
“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but the counsel of the Lord, it will stand.” (Proverbs 19:21)
These are things we should be thankful for all day every day – along with God’s mercy and grace and faithfulness and forgiveness.
In fact, we are commanded in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 to give thanks – not FOR everything, but IN everything: “In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Since God never commands us to do anything that will cause us harm, there must be some positive benefits to developing a heart of gratefulness and thanksgiving.
Here are a few of the positive benefits of being thankful:
1. Being thankful makes you happier.
In recent psychology research studies, expressing gratitude has been consistently and strongly associated with greater happiness.
Expressing gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions. It improves their health, helps them deal with adversity better, and helps them build stronger relationships.
Click here to read an article from Harvard Medical School that contains details about research on gratitude.
As Christians, giving thanks to God changes our focus from ourselves and our difficulties to God’s character. This changes our mood and lifts our spirit… and it has a soothing effect on our emotions.
2. Being thankful gives you peace and comfort during difficult times.
As we noted above, God’s character remains unchanged no matter what we are going through.
Even if you’ve lost your job, lost your home, or God forbid, have lost loved ones, God’s love and mercy and grace and faithfulness never cease… they never diminish.
In Philippians 4:6-7, Paul instructs us:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
3. Being thankful lifts the spirits of those around you.
No one wants to be around someone who is always miserable… or who is always angry or frustrated.
Negative attitudes are contagious…
That’s perhaps why Psalm 1:1 cautions us against hanging around places where mockers and scoffers gather.
In contrast, being thankful produces a spirit of peace and tranquility… which affects your attitude and even your facial expressions!
When other people notice your positive attitude, they’ll be attracted to you and will want to be around you because of the support and encouragement they’ll feel from you.
4. Being thankful opens the door to blessings from God.
Notice the connection between giving thanks and the peace of God in the passage above from Philippians 4.
The peace OF God is a special inner peace that prevails despite personal circumstances… despite political turmoil… despite national and international conflicts.
Who doesn’t want to have a life characterized by inner peace no matter what chaos and turmoil is occurring all around them?
And who doesn’t want to be around someone who handles trials and tribulations with calmness and grace – and a sense of peace – rather than panic and fear?
Other blessings for being thankful will be special friendships and the positive feedback of people with whom you come in contact.
5. Being thankful reminds us that we are dependent on others – and on God.
We’ve been created and wired psychologically, emotionally and spiritually to be interdependent on others … and dependent on our Creator.
No one survives infancy without the love and support – both physical and emotional – of a mother or other loving human being.
In American society today, independence and self-sufficiency are praised by some and criticized by others, while complete dependence on others – or on government – is frowned on by some and encouraged by others.
But both are important – and they need to be in balance. Too much of one and not enough of the other will always lead to all kinds of human problems.
Cultivating an attitude of gratitude and thanksgiving will cause us to have the proper balance of dependence and independence:
- Complete dependence on God
- A healthy dependence on others
- A healthy independence resulting in a strong work ethic, a desire for self-sufficiency, and self-discipline
6. Not being thankful will result in a downward spiral of rebellion, foolishness and evil.
Being thankful is a sign of humility, which is a sign of strong character.
It is NOT a sign of weakness, as some medial messages may suggest.
In contrast, refusing to be thankful is a major character flaw … it’s a sign of pride and foolishness.
Romans 1:18-32 gives us a stark warning of the dire consequences of suppressing truth and refusing to be thankful for the existence of God and the majesty of His creation. Notice the downward spiral that begins with a refusal to give thanks:
“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, being understood by what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man… For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator… (Romans 1:20-23, 25)
Here’s a summary of that downward spiral:
- Knows there is a God, but refuses to honor Him as God or give thanks
- The mind creates futile speculations
- The heart becomes foolish and dark
- Claims to be wise but becomes a fool instead
- Replaces the glory of God with an image of man
- Exchanges the truth of God for a lie
- Worships himself or other creatures rather than the Creator
7. Being thankful is a behavior you can cultivate and develop in your life.
Here are some ideas of things you can do to develop a more thankful heart:
- Write a thank-you note to another person, expressing your appreciation for that person’s influence on your life. Do this once a month.
- Keep a gratitude journal. Make it a habit to write down remembrances of the nice things others have done for you, or the things they’ve said to you.
- Count your blessings on a weekly basis. Write these blessings down in your gratitude journal.
- Each night when you go to bed, think about the people who did nice things for you that day. Thank God for them.
- Read some Psalms that focus on worship, praise and thanksgiving. Psalm 136 and 145-150 are good ones to start with.
This Thanksgiving I encourage you to begin – if you haven’t already done so – to cultivate the habit of giving thanks each day – thanks to God for giving you life and for sustaining it – and thanks to others for their impact and influence on your life.
Watch this video of TV personality Steve Harvey expressing gratitude to his mother for his upbringing.
What do you think? Email me at [email protected].