What Does Thanksgiving Truly Mean?

God Wants Us To Have a Thankful Heart All of the Time

It’s now November, and with its arrival comes thoughts of Thanksgiving. To many people, that means a big turkey dinner, family and friends gathered around a table, and maybe, just maybe, some fleeting memories about seemingly ancient pictures of some pilgrims in big hats, some Native Americans, and a cornucopia.

But Thanksgiving is more than just filling yourself with turkey, mashed potatoes, and other delicious dishes and falling asleep on the couch. It is so much more than “Turkey Day,” and sadly, many miss its purpose and its significance by a wide margin. Throughout its rich history, the Thanksgiving celebration was set apart as a day where people solely focused on giving thanks to God for His many blessings in their lives. Simply put, Thanksgiving is about being truly thankful.

But honestly, God doesn’t set just one day aside for us to be thankful. He wants us to be thankful every day, all year long. Whether we are having a “good day” or a “bad day,” a “good year” or a “bad year,” we should always give thanks. The Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

How is that possible, though? It’s very easy to be thankful when things are going good for someone, when they are healthy, when their bank account is full, and when they are happy. But how can someone give thanks when it seems that life itself is falling down around them?

Thankfulness is a Choice

Thankfulness, even in bad times, is possible because thanksgiving is a choice we make. It’s an attitude we consciously adopt every day in our lives. It’s not a feeling we have; it’s a decision we make.

To that statement, you may reply, “No. I’m just not built like that. That’s not a part of my personality. I’ve never really been like that.” That’s really not your in-born personality, though; it’s actually because you’ve made a choice to be that way. Every single day, we have a choice to be thankful or ungrateful, as we embrace either the positives or the negatives in our lives. That certainly can be a hard choice, though. Some circumstances can be extenuating, heavy, and awful, and we are definitely not minimizing emotional or mental health issues.

But even in the middle of a storm, we can all choose to be thankful. It’s all about changing your mind and deciding to be thankful, even despite the circumstances of a day or a month or a year. The Bible says in Colossians 3:15, “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.” There are no modifiers in that verse. Always “let the peace of God rule in your hearts” and “be ye thankful,” not only if you are having a good day, not only if the car starts, not only if your boss doesn’t yell at you. “Let” and “be,” no matter what.

What If There’s Nothing to Be Thankful For?

We’re sure some, if not many, people would ask, “What if I have nothing to be thankful for?” Some may even ask, “How can I be thankful in the middle of this pandemic, with everything going on in the United States and around the world?”

The answer to those questions is, “There is always something to be thankful for.” Did you wake up this morning? Were you able to take a breath? Do you still have your health? Do you have a roof over your head and food on your table? There are always things for which you can be grateful when you start looking.

That someone would even consider those questions reveals a speed bump in their thought process. There is an old hymn that says, “Count your blessings. Name them one by one.” How has God blessed you today? Are you dwelling on thoughts of those blessings or on the negatives of your circumstances? The Bible says in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

Change your thinking.

We Can’t Consistently Be Thankful on Our Own, Though

Seems like a daunting task, right? To choose a grateful attitude every day? To be thankful, even when things are going bad? We’ll let you in on a little secret: It is daunting. In fact, it’s impossible. You will fail. But the Bible says in Mark 10:27, “And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.”

Once we decide that we want to be thankful, we need to rely on God for His help and His strength to have that attitude of thanksgiving. When you pray, ask God to make you grateful. It’s a basic fact of life: No matter what we choose to do, we need God’s strength to do it. And our Heavenly Father wants to give us that strength. The Bible says in Isaiah 40:30-31, “Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

Simply, God wants you to be thankful, and He wants to give you that attitude and the power to maintain it. You just have to choose to take the first step toward consistent thanksgiving. And as you consciously choose daily to embrace a pattern of thankful thinking through God’s strength, it will become easier and easier.

But to tap into God’s strength, you first must have a relationship with God. How can you have a relationship with Him? The Bible says in John 14:6, “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Jesus is the key to creating a true relationship with God. Jesus died on the cross to take the due punishment for the sins of the entire world, including yours. He rose again to conquer death, and He offers eternal life to anyone who trusts Him and calls out to Him to be saved. He opens the door to God, to Heaven, and to all the benefits of having that relationship with Him, including His strength.

Sounds like something to be very thankful for, right?

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