This month, I’m blogging about Thanksgiving. Not just the November day of celebration, but about developing a lifestyle of thanksgiving, which can radically change your life. Several years ago, I wrote a bible study called “30 Days of Thanks.” What I determined during my research is that “thanksgiving” boils down to four things:
Thanksgiving is gratitude
Thanksgiving is sacrifice
Thanksgiving is relationship
Thanksgiving is a call to action
Last blog, I wrote about gratitude as a lifestyle. Read it here. Thanksgiving is also sacrifice. Ouch. Sacrifice? Like… give something up? Like… put someone or something else ahead of my own interests? Like...giving thanks when the world around me is falling apart?
Like… not being #1? Yeah. Like that.
In the Old Testament, "sacrifice" had a very literal meaning. It typically meant a physical sacrifice of food or animals, offered on an altar to God as a means of showing repentance or gratitude. When Christ came on the scene, the meaning of sacrifice began to change. The apostle Paul tells us that sacrifice is often less about the act and more about the heart. Because what is in our heart will determine the way we act. (Funny how that works, huh?)
Thanksgiving is sacrifice because it is not always easy.
Sometimes we just don't feel like giving thanks!
We can't see the good in what is happening in our own lives, in the lives of our family or friends, or in the world. We are sad, or hurting, or angry, or confused, and we just don't feel like saying "Thank you, God." We see innocent people murdered, lives cut short by disease, and relationships splintered by hurtful actions.
So, why should we give thanks? Lots of reasons. First, giving thanks takes the focus off what is troubling us and puts it on God. It keeps us from being paralyzed by fear, anger, or grief. It keeps us from rash actions that may be driven by our fear, anger, or grief. Sacrificial thanks may not change our situation, but it may change us. And if we are changed, we may view our situation differently and be more open to finding solutions to problems or challenges.
Hear me on this: giving thanks in difficult times doesn’t mean we ignore what is troubling us. It means we thank God in the midst of what is troubling us. It doesn’t mean we ignore the evil in the world- whether it’s our own little world or the world at large. It means we give thanks to God that we are the kind of person who does recognize evil and who is motivated to find ways to change the situation. It doesn’t mean that our heart doesn’t hurt. It means we open our hurting heart to the one source that is able to bring healing.
Sometimes, we have to ask God to show us what we can be thankful for. And, when he does… and when we do… there’s one last step. We look for ways to “do good.” In the book of Hebrews, we are told "to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. (Hebrews 13:16)
In my last blog post, I asked you to take inventory of your life and write down what you are truly thankful for. People, community, church, health, possessions, forgiveness, grace, etc.