Do not worry about anything, but in everything
by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving
let your requests be made known to God.
In November, we make a point to do what Paul tells us in Philippians we should all the time: be thankful. Some of us are thankful all month, but almost everyone can be thankful for an hour or two on Thanksgiving Day.
I’ve written before how we are so blessed as a society and (almost all of us) as individuals that thankfulness is typically as easy as paying attention. So for example, the week I write this, I’m getting over a nasty cold. That hasn’t been a lot of fun, but I can be thankful it’s just a cold. I’m thankful my job lets me adjust my schedule and work from home. I have access to medicine, and, if I need one, a doctor.
Another example: someone cut Margo off in traffic, causing a lot of damage to both her car and Margo’s. But nobody was hurt! There are accidents on Highway 62 all the time, and a lot of them involve injury or even death. We can be thankful this wasn’t one of them. There were several witnesses who waited nearly an hour so they could make a statement to the police. A Southern California Edison crew was working nearby, and they moved a vehicle in front of the accident scene, so its blinking yellow light would alert oncoming traffic to watch out. And we have insurance. Even when things go badly, there are usually things you can be thankful for.
But not always. There are some things, and some circumstances, where even Pollyanna herself would find it hard to be thankful.
Psalm 105 and 106 are very instructive for times like that, when your circumstances are so bad that, try as you might, you simply can’t find anything to be thankful about. They begin, like Paul, exhorting us to thanksgiving.
O give thanks to the Lord, call on his name.
make known his deeds among the peoples
Sing to him, sing praises to him;
tell of all his wonderful works.
In those psalms, the Psalmist turns his attention from his circumstances to the history of Israel. He focuses on the grace and mercy that God has historically shown to his people, when they were delivered from captivity in Egypt:
… Then Israel came to Egypt;
Jacob lived as an alien in the land of Ham.
And the Lord made his people very fruitful
and made them stronger than their foes …
He sent his servant Moses, and Aaron, whom he had chosen
They performed his signs among them,
and miracles in the land of Ham…
Psalm 106 is similar, describing God’s subsequent faithfulness to Israel during the 40 years they were in the wilderness.
The story of deliverance from bondage in Egypt and God’s provision in the wilderness was something every child would have learned at a young age. When they’d tried, and there was nothing about their circumstances to be thankful for, they could think instead about God: how God loved them and intervened to liberate them and meet their needs.
What’s your favorite Bible story? For example, mine is the story of the Prodigal Son. It reminds me that no matter how horribly I have rebelled against God, he still loves me, and still runs to welcome me when I am still far off. If my circumstances are so bad I can be thankful for nothing else, I can be thankful for that much.
What can you be thankful for this year? I hope you are able to tick off things to be thankful for as quickly as you can think of your circumstances. But if not, think about your favorite Bible story, like the Israelites did when they sang Psalm 105 and 106. Those Bible stories remind us what God is like, and if there’s nothing else to be thankful for, at
least we have that much.