Reflections on Thanksgiving the day after 

It’s my observation, after a typical American Thanksgiving Day of watching football on TV, getting with family, and enjoying a great meal together with those we love and enjoy, that I tend to miss the real point, the bottom line reality of a thankful heart.

I think it’s because I tend to focus – somewhat superficially – on things that I’m thankful for, things like the provision of my needs, a warm and dry place to sleep, a great wife who really takes good care of me, and so on. And while it is good and right to be thankful for these things, the real focus of a thankful heart remains obscured behind all the stuff.

The Scripture tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 that we are to give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will concerning us. Notice, it doesn’t say that the circumstances are God’s will for us, but that thankfulness in those circumstances is the thing that is on God’s heart. 

This verse presses me into a deeper reality than trying to think of something to be thankful for when I’m at the holiday table and it’s my turn to say something, or of trying to change my attitude about a difficult situation because “this too is God’s will.” Sometimes God, as a good Father, allows situations and circumstances that are not His perfect will, and His Word calls us to be thankful, not FOR the circumstances, but IN the circumstances.

How does that work? Well, it calls me to focus my attention on something higher than what is going on around me. It calls me to fix my gaze on His sovereign plan, His goodness, and His promise that He is actively working all things for my good, because I love Him and am called according to His purposes (that’s in Romans 8:28, by the way).

In other words, I’m instructed to be thankful to Him, no matter what is going on, because He is good, He is in control, and the posture of thankfulness in the midst of difficulty is what defeats the temptation to mistrust God and look somewhere else for fulfillment and relief.

Time and time again, especially in the Book of Psalms, the writers of Scripture voice their questions and even complaints about their circumstances, often with surprisingly frank and honest language. But then they begin to recount the history of the goodness of God, His sovereign leadership, and the ways that His purposes have been realized in their history, and they end up praising Him and growing in trust and confidence that He will work it out for their good.

I want to be like that – honest with God about how I see circumstances and feel about them, but then filled with gratitude for who He is, and the certainty that He will have His way, and that it will be good beyond my wildest dreams. 

Be blessed and thankful in the goodness of God.

Gary Wiens


Gary Wiens, 11/25/2016