Probably some of us still have left over turkey in the fridge, so perhaps it’s not too late to address the matter of thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving is defined in Webster’s Dictionary as, “The act of giving thanks; grateful acknowledgment of benefits or favors; an expression of gratitude for something received, or done…” I appreciate that Dictionary.com, says almost the same thing, but adds, “especially to God.”
There is actually quite a difference between the common view and the biblical view of thanksgiving. Most (like Webster) would attach the giving of thanks to acquiring possessions, the receiving of gifts or favors, or enjoying pleasant circumstances.
The Bible however, contains such verses as 1Thessalonians 5:18 where we read, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you…” Or, James 1:2 where it states, “When troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy…”
On the basis of these two passages alone, it is evident that the biblical view of thanksgiving has little to do with receiving nice things or enjoying pleasant circumstances and is definitely not relegated to one weekend in October.
Clearly, the giving of thanks from the Bible’s point of view, is not based upon external, environmental issues, but upon internal, spiritual values, realities and attitudes. In other words, from the biblical perspective, it is possible to be thankful without being on the receiving end and even when circumstances are less than ideal.
Anne Steele (1811-1867) provides a vivid example for us. She had encountered numerous physical and emotional trials and disappointments in her life. Being a devout Christian however, she continued to thank and praise God.
Anne’s biggest trial came on her wedding day, which she’d looked forward to with joyful anticipation. The big day arrived and so did the guests, but the groom was missing. After waiting for an hour a messenger brought the sad news that Anne’s fiancé had accidentally drowned on his way to the wedding.
The shock was almost too much for her to bear, but she regained her composure and maintained her spiritual integrity. She sat down and wrote a hymn of quiet acceptance and thankfulness. She titled it, “Father, Whate’er of Earthly Bliss.” Words from the 1st and 2nd stanza say, “Father, whate’er of earthly bliss Thy sovereign will denies, Accepted at Thy throne of grace, let this petition rise: Give me a calm, a thankful heart, from every murmur free! The blessings of Thy grace impart, and make me live for Thee.”
“The unthankful heart…discovers no mercies; but the thankful heart sweeps through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings!” Henry Ward Beecher
Pastor Ross Helgeton is the senior pastor of Erskine Evangelical Free Church.
— Faith & Reflection