With Thanksgiving fast approaching, I am sure everyone reading this is already gearing up for the big day. Whether that means preparing the food, cleaning the house, or figuring out where you'll be napping at your Aunt's house after the meal, all of us have some preparation to do for this upcoming Thursday.
My preparation centers around what I consider to be one of the most challenging traditions of the entire holiday season - the often vaunted, "Before we eat, everyone needs to go around the table and say one thing they are thankful for." In my family, this was a Thanksgiving tradition like none other, and even though we had done it every year, it always seemed to catch everyone by surprise.
My favorite thing about this tradition as a kid is the rule that our family had: the thing you were thankful for had to be unique. That means no copying your brother or piggybacking on someone else's idea. This meant that Thanksgiving dinner did not always resemble the exciting feast it was billed as and instead seemed to bear a striking resemblance to an English class when no one had read the book.
So, if your family is anything like mine, I want to help you out and give you a new twist on a Thanksgiving classic when you have to stand in front of the family and give your thankfulness report this year.
This year, when you are asked why you are thankful, I encourage you to think about the hard parts of the year. This may seem largely counterintuitive, but I believe that many times the instances when we should be the most thankful to God are when we go through the hardest moments.
To illustrate my point, I implore you to read Job 1. In this chapter, you will find one of the most interesting biblical stories of all time. Everything that Job had was taken from him. In just a few moments, we see Job lose his oxen, sheep, camels, servants, and most importantly, all of his children. This event is jarring to think about and is filled with unspeakable pain, and yet we see a fascinating thing in Job’s response.
20 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship.
21 and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.”
What a powerful moment. I like to believe that under similar circumstances, I could have even part of the faith and trust that Job possesses in this moment. When everything was taken from him, his first response in his anguish is to worship God.
The reason that Job has that response is that he understands a simple truth that all of us should bear in mind as we enter this Thanksgiving weekend. We do not give thanks to God because he gives us what we want; we give thanks to God because that is what he deserves. God shows us unconditional love by creating us, giving us purpose, and most importantly, by sending his Son, Jesus, that we might become co-heirs with Christ, and thus he deserves our unconditional Thanksgiving.
So, this Thanksgiving, I do not believe you have to go down a laundry list of all the bad things that have happened this year; however, I do encourage you to take account of all the difficult things from this past year and in the midst of that, say a prayer of thankfulness to God. Not because we celebrate our pain, but because we celebrate a God who conquered sin and death and gave us a way back to him.