While we tend to look forward to Thanksgiving because it usually means a four-day holiday, getting together with family, and eating more food than we have all year, it is my sincere desire that it be more meaningful this year. What if Thanksgiving were the one day in which we over-emphasized what should be on our hearts every day of the year: a heart of gratitude in everything?
God clearly spelled out His good and perfect will for us in First Thessalonians 5:18 when He inspired the Apostle Paul to write: “In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Did you catch that? In everything. In the good times, as well as the bad. In the pleasantries of life, as well as in the pain. During difficult times, trying times and frustrating times, too.
I got to thinking about how Thanksgiving might be so much more meaningful if I focused on thanking God for the things He rarely hears thanks for. Try this with me this year. Thank Him, not just for the food on the table before you partake, and the “blessings for this past year” but for all the ways He has not performed according to your liking. For all the times He has said “no” and for all the ways He has worked in and through your life, perhaps without you knowing it. Thank Him for all the unresolved issues and the ways you are still waiting for answers. Thank Him—regardless—and see what it does for your soul as you offer Him a heart of obedience and surrender this year. Thank Him—regardless—and see how it moves the others who are around your table.
Consider praying this prayer around your table on Thanksgiving:
Thank you, God, for this food we are about to eat. And thank You for Your many blessings on us this past year…the ones we’ve seen, as well as the ones we haven’t seen.
Thank you, God for the times You have said “no.” They have helped us depend on You so much more.
Thank you, God, for unanswered prayer. It reminds us that You know what’s best for us, even when our opinion differs.
Thank You for the things you have withheld. You have protected us from what we may never realize.
Thank You, God, for the doors You have closed. They have prevented us from going where You would rather not have us go.
Thank you, Lord, for the physical pain You’ve allowed in our lives. It has helped us more closely relate to Your sufferings on our behalf.
Thank you, Lord, for the alone times in our lives. Those times have forced us to lean in closer to You.
Thank you, God, for the uncertainties we’ve experienced. They have deepened our trust in You.
Thank You, Lord, for the times You came through for us when we didn’t even know we needed a rescue.
Thank You, Lord, for the losses we have experienced. They have been a reminder that You are our greatest gain.
Thank You, God, for the tears we have shed. They have kept our hearts soft and moldable.
Thank You, God, for the times we haven’t been able to control our circumstances. They have reminded us that You are sovereign and on the throne.
Thank You, God, for Your ability to take what we consider ‘tragedy’ and turn it into a treasure.
Thank You, God, for those You have called home to be with You. Their absence from this earth reminds us to keep our eyes fixed on heaven.
Thank You, God, that we have an inheritance in the heavenly places…something that this world can never steal from us and we could never selfishly squander.
Thank You, God, for the greatest gift You could ever give us: forgiveness through Your perfect Son’s death on the cross on our behalf.
Thank you, God, for the righteousness You credited toward us, through the death and resurrection of Jesus. It’s a righteousness we could never attain to on our own.
And thank You not only for our eternal salvation, but for the salvation You afford us every day of our lives as You save us from ourselves, our foolishness, our own limited insights, and our frailties in light of Your power and strength.
Thank You, God, for all that You have allowed and not allowed in our lives this past year. For we commit our lives anew to You this day and ask that You would continue to remind us, throughout this next year, that You are God, You are on the throne, and You are eternally good.
Thank You, finally, that we can pray in the name of Jesus, who made our access to You—and a personal relationship with You—possible. Amen.
Cindi McMenamin is a pastor’s wife, Bible teacher, national speaker and author of several books, including Letting God Meet Your Emotional Needs, When Women Walk Alone, When You’re Running on Empty and When a Woman Overcomes Life’s Hurts. For more on her ministry or for free resources to strengthen your soul or marriage, see her website: http://www.StrengthForTheSoul.com
Publication date: November 15, 2012