Category: Devotional

A Season of Thanksgiving: Giving Thanks in Troubled Times

“Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” Ps. 34:11 NKJV

As a group of writers dedicated to sharing our faith with the next generation, do we effectively communicate thanksgiving and hope in difficult events as well as holidays?

Why give thanks?

The very first mentions of “thanksgiving” in Leviticus 7:12-13 reference food, so our traditional Thanksgiving Day celebration feasts derive from both faith and historical events.

As families and friends gather this year, whether in the usual numbers or smaller groups due to local restrictions, we have all experienced a year of daily announcements related to disease and efforts to avoid it. Many have lost one or more loved ones. Perhaps more than ever, then, we need to focus on reasons to celebrate and express gratitude, first of all, to God.

How we celebrate

Psalms like 69:30, 95:2,100:4, and 147:7 pair thanksgiving with instrumental music, vocal songs, and praise, and Old Testament historical books record specific celebrations of thanksgiving in Israel, especially by the kings David and Solomon. As many later kings fell away from the true worship of God, there are fewer references to thanksgiving in the rest of 1 and 2 Kings and 1 and 2 Chronicles. But Ezra and Nehemiah record the renewed celebrations and thanksgiving to God when the exiles returned to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple.

Thanking God in the hard times

Perhaps most relevant to Thanksgiving celebrations in 2020 are prophetic utterances about thanksgiving connected to times of trial.  Isaiah 51:3 and Jeremiah 30:19 offer God’s promises of comfort to restore thanksgiving after a season of judgment, while Amos and Jonah proclaim thanksgiving as a sacrifice to God.

Write2Ignite Team member Gail Cartee offers this wise observance about the ways in which God transforms painful past events and sins to bring about salvation. Her November 15, 2020 review of Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving, by Eric Metaxas, acknowledges selfish motives among early colonial explorers and traders, and outbreaks of disease which decimated whole tribes of Native Americans. Metaxas compares these to Joseph’s brothers, who sold him into slavery. He shows God’s redemptive purpose even in the most tragic human misdeeds.

As Gail observes, “Confusion and mistrust surround us on every hand, but God has not left us alone. He is working all things for our good. Pray for our nation and all our leaders. Pray for wisdom as Christians. Help wherever you can. Do not be afraid, because God is with us through every circumstance working all things for our good.”

I encourage you to subscribe to Gail’s blog, Family Devotions from My Father’s World. It’s a rich trove of wisdom from Scripture and God’s amazing creation, with stories and activities that parents and children can enjoy together. https://gailcartee.blogspot.com/

Closing thought for a season of thanksgiving

Whatever our circumstances have been in this oft-maligned year, let’s take this opportunity to make the closing months of 2020 a blessed time of focus on the goodness and the works of God, in our own hearts and lives, and in our nation.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV

My Best Thought

In a very old hymn, Be Thou My Vision, there is one line that I particularly love. “Be my best thought by day or by night.” In modern terms, what does this look like?

Let your thoughts be about Jesus and He will keep you in perfect peace.

Fixing our thoughts on Jesus can be hard to do especially at this time, especially when, for some, it can feel as though our lives are falling apart. The loss of a loved one, income or the sense of normality from the pandemic, causes us to question God’s purpose for our lives. Where is God in the middle of all this suffering? 

Where I live in Melbourne, Australia, we were under the strictest rules of lockdown in the world until only very recently. We were only allowed to leave home for four reasons: to provide care for a loved one, to buy groceries, to work (as an essential worker) and to exercise. Travelling more than 5kms away from home or visiting someone in their home was illegal. One hundred days of lockdown has certainly taken a toll on the physical and mental health of everyone whom I’ve been in contact with. It was one of the hardest times. But what I learned during that time was that it taught me to control what I allow myself to think about. 

The more you think about Him and what He has done and is doing, the promise of His supernatural peace becomes your new reality. This peace, according to Philippians 4:7, surpasses human understanding. It keeps watch over your heart and mind. There is a deep sense of peace God offers to us. Believers in Jesus are promised this unique peace (John 14:27).

If you choose to continually meditate on God’s promises, He becomes the best thing you’ll ever think about during the day. God wants to keep you in His perfecpeace. But what does He mean by that? By fixing your thoughts on Him, whenever you’re tempted to fear or despair, He steers you back into His peace. In this way, you’ll keep yourself in His peace by deciding to fix your thoughts continually on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable.

As for me, I know I can place my trust in this God because He guides me through this life, one step at a time. He is faithful to His word. He’s promised to never leave or forsake me. These are the thoughts that I’m determined to think about. Despite everything in the world being so uncertain, I remind myself daily of His promises. Of all the thoughts I think about today, I want Jesus to be my best thought.

Who is He to you?

Scripture reference: Philippians 4:6-8, Isaiah 26:3.

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Ellice Wong is a radiographer in Melbourne, Australia and our newest Write2Ignite blogger. She is passionate about writing devotionals to encourage and inspire people to seek God. Please visit her blog, Living Stones.

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