Today is November 17th, which means we're inching closer and closer to the holiday duet that marks the end of every year - Thanksgiving and Christmas. I love this time of year because Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love the weather, the food, the getting together with family, and the abundance of football to watch on TV. But I also love the opportunity to have a day set aside to focus on being thankful for God’s blessings.
However, every year as I sit down to enjoy a Thanksgiving feast, I feel a sense of guilt that I’m trying to cram all of my “thanksgiving” into one day. And actually, if you’ve been reading these devotionals for a while, then you know that almost every Thanksgiving I write a devotional aimed at challenging us to stay thankful throughout the year. Unfortunately for me, that’s easier said than done, and usually by March the challenge has been forgotten in all of the activity and stress of life - and my "thanksgiving" takes a back seat to just trying to survive.
So when I woke up this morning and realized we’re less than a week away from Thanksgiving, I decided to try a different approach. I asked God to help me begin the thanksgiving process earlier, in the hopes it will last longer afterwards. In other words, I’ve asked God to cultivate a “heart of thanksgiving” in me now, instead of waiting until next Thursday.
Now, I know that as soon as I begin praying for a thankful heart, things will occur which will challenge that thankfulness. Frustrating situations and people will come into my life. Things won’t go as planned. And I’ll notice how everyone else seems to have nicer things than I have. But I also know that God can help me stay focused on His blessings no matter what - which will then keep me thankful. The key is, I have to be intentional about focusing on the blessings, rather than the challenges.
In Philippians 4:8 the Apostle Paul writes: “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise - then the God of peace will rule in your hearts.” In this passage Paul reminds us that our focus needs to be on the good stuff that God is always doing, rather than on the challenges that will continue to spring up. If we open our eyes to focus on all God has done, is doing, and promises to do, we will be able to stay thankful, no matter what’s going on in our lives.
So today, join me in asking God to cultivate a heart of thanksgiving. Let’s not wait until Thursday to show our gratitude to God for all He is and all He offers us. Instead, today let’s focus on the abundance of great things He’s doing for us - and handle the challenging things with the knowledge that God will help us through them. Let’s make the choice today to begin a life of thanksgiving.