I suggest a revision to the traditional “let’s count our blessings” ritual practiced around Thanksgiving Day each year. Instead of listing your top ten blessings, or 26 of them from A to Z if you can come up with that many, count your frustrations, your mistakes, your enemies, your fears, and even your sins. These, after all, feel a bit lonely on Thanksgiving because they never make the list. Why not? Well, we’d rather not deal with them in general, and certainly we’d rather not give them an opening to ruin an otherwise happy Thanksgiving.
So shake things up a little this year. When others ask you what you’re thankful for, say, “My diabetes,” or “That I lost my job last month,” or “Loneliness.” Huh? When they look at you strangely, then explain, “Because I’m thankful from the inside.”
That’s how the Bible characterizes the person who is truly thankful. Like Solomon, who knew world-renowned wealth, wisdom and power, then lost it all. You’d think he’d be a bit sour when reflecting on his losses, but instead he advises, “When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other” (Ecclesiastes 7:14). Whether the economy is up or down, God remains God and, for that, Solomon tells us we can be thankful. Job put it similarly when he praised the Lord after all the employees of his company were killed by an enemy attack, he lost his income-producing livestock, and his children were killed in a deadly tornado. “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21).
These men show us how to be thankful from the inside. Don’t let external circumstances dictate your level of thanksgiving. Instead, look at every circumstance from a perspective of faith in the Lord God. This is not positive thinking, it’s promise trusting. Not blind faith, but informed faith that knows what others refuse to accept—we can always give thanks “to the Lord for his unfailing love” (Psalm 107:8,15,21,31).
No matter what we experience, it is connected to the Lord’s unfailing love. His unconditional choice to forgive sinners, show mercy, and own any believer as his dear child. We have a guarantee of his love in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, a divine event on this earth that saves people and cannot be erased from history.
If you’re having trouble with giving thanks these days, my advice is to stop looking outside and look inside. What’s your perspective? Instead of counting your blessings, count on God’s unfailing love in every good and every bad. Get to know God’s love by reading and hearing more from the Bible. Start an inventory of God’s promises that must always be true. And give thanks from the inside.
Pastor Dean Boernke