This coming Thursday is Thanksgiving. Many people trace the origins of the modern Thanksgiving Day to the harvest celebration the Pilgrims held in Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1621. Although there is little doubt that this event inspired our current holiday, it did not become an annual holiday in the United States until 1863.
Interestingly, President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday – right in the middle of the Civil War. His proclamation requested that all Americans ask God to “commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.” The intent of setting aside the day is to thank God for the harvest and other blessings of the past year and to seek God’s intervention for those with emotional, physical, and spiritual needs. It reminds us of our dependence on God and the need to show appreciation for His wonderful mercies.
The Bible has much to say about the importance of thankfulness. One passage I find very intriguing is 1 Chronicles 16:4-36. We read in verse 4, “Then he [David] appointed some of the Levites as ministers before the ark of the Lord, to invoke, to thank, and to praise the Lord, the God of Israel.” The ark had been brought back to Jerusalem. There was a great celebration that led David to establish certain Levitical families to be permanently in charge of thanksgiving.
We learn a couple of principles from this passage about the importance of thanksgiving. First, we should always express thankfulness. Certain Levites were appointed to give continual praise to God. We discover that praise and thanksgiving should be a regular part of our daily life. It ought not to be merely reserved for celebrations. When we praise God continually, we discover that we are less likely to take God’s blessings for granted.
Secondly, there are four significant aspects of thankfulness found in a song of David recorded in verses 8-36. (1) We are to remember what God has done, (2) telling others about it, (3) showing God’s glory to others, and (4) offering gifts of self, time, and resources. In a nutshell, if you are genuinely thankful, your life will show it.
There is an old song, “Count Your Many Blessings,” that has a line that goes, “When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed, when you are discouraged, thinking all is lost, count your many blessings; name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done. Count your blessings; name them one by one.” Taking time each day to think about how the Lord has blessed us not just rightly shows appreciation to God for all His marvelous provisions but also serves to encourage us as we align our thinking with the reality of God’s goodness at all times, even amid difficult ones.
Let me challenge us to not only make thanksgiving a priority one day a year but throughout all the days of the year. Also, as we gather at the Thanksgiving table to partake of a meal, especially the delicious stuffing, take some time to share the blessings of God for which you are thankful. It’s an amazing reality how our thankfulness ministers to others and the thanksgiving of others ministers to us.
I hope you have a great Thanksgiving Day. Let’s remember what God has done for us, as well as remember those who are in need emotionally, physically, and spiritually. May we be found to count our blessings, thankful for what the Lord has done. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!