Thanksgiving season this year may seem dimmed by dark clouds of trouble around the world, especially in the Middle East, and the many protests it has brought. But it is still a season to pause and give thanks—a time to be thankful.
But how do we break out of the restrictive thinking of others around us? How can we escape the pull of polarizing opinions and thoughts?
In a word—thankfulness. Thankfulness is a genuine antidote for the antagonistic talk we’re bombarded with by the news media and social media.
Having a better, more clear perspective is the key to being thankful regardless of our view of the current state of the world around us. Consider the apostle Paul’s exhortation to a young leader he mentored for many years. He gave this exhortation during Nero’s evil reign under the oppressive government of the Roman Empire.
First of all, I encourage you to make petitions, prayers, intercessions, and prayers of thanks for all people, for rulers, and for everyone who has authority over us. Pray for these people so that we can have a quiet and peaceful life, always lived in a godly and reverent way. (1 Tim 2:1-2 GW)
This appeal begins with prayer and thanksgiving for everyone. This alone will change people’s hearts. First, it will change our hearts. When our heart changes, our perspective will change.
Here is the key to a better perspective—prayer is more powerful, beneficial, and productive than protests. Not only will it accomplish more, it will bring genuine harmony. That harmony begins with God’s peace in our hearts.
This enables us to look from the inside out with a different perspective. It is not self-reflection but looking at things through the lens of God’s peace based on God’s sovereignty over all. This doesn’t change the world around us. It changes us.
A brief historical reminder …
Let me remind you of the historical background of America’s tradition of a Thanksgiving Day celebration. We’re told the first Thanksgiving celebration took place in 1621 as a time to give thanks for the harvest the pilgrims enjoyed. I believe the local native Americans were an important part of that first celebration.
Our first president, George Washington, established a national holiday to give thanks in 1789. He probably understood better than anyone the valuable and miraculous freedom Americans enjoyed as an independent nation. If you’re unfamiliar with early American history, it’s worth looking into.
In the midst of our terrible Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln made a proclamation for the last Thursday in November to be set aside as a national holiday for Thanksgiving on October 3, 1863. This was before his famous Gettysburg Address, given at the dedication of the military cemetery at the site of the bloody and violent Battle of Gettysburg, which was a turning point in the war.
Much later in our history, President Franklin D Roosevelt signed an act of Congress to set aside the fourth Thursday of November as our national Day of Thanksgiving. This took place in 1942, as America’s role in WWII continued to expand.
Whatever your circumstances are, whatever your situation in life, whether you have a lot or a little, give thanks!
Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! (Psalm 106:1 ESV)
Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18 GW)
When I am thankful, I’m content, and because I’m content, I’m thankful.
…I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. (Phil 4:11-12 NIV)
I realize Thanksgiving Day is not a happy time for everyone. It can be a lonely and sad time, while others ignore it altogether. But the truth of the Scripture above reminds us that our circumstances shouldn’t dictate our disposition.