Several years ago, my siblings and I started a Thanksgiving tradition, which continues today. At our thanksgiving dinner, we all gather around the dinner table and hold hands while each family member, including the children, take turns and share what we are thankful for that year. During the years when we were bruise or battered by events such the loss of loved ones or financial difficulties, those brief moments of remembrance and thanksgiving never fail to reignite our passion for God. Those special moments always offer new hope for the year ahead, and I continually gain strength and confidence in recalling instances when God had intervened in my circumstances. Not to mention the rate of returns I enjoyed because of the lessons I learned from depending on Him.
However, during the 2008 recession, there were some of us who had to determine in our heart that in spite of our financial difficulties we were going to continue trusting God. It is through those times of hardships, which are often blessings in disguise that God’s children come to understand that we always have more than enough for our harvest of thanksgiving.
So I understand the importance of a thankful heart. I have learned to be thankful in good times and in challenging times. I recognize that during my times of pruning I need to be especially mindful to be grateful for what I have, and not focus on what is lacking. Understanding Christ’s heart for His children and maintaining an attitude of gratitude will always sustain and restore us through the lean times.
Just as prayers are sometimes rush because of our “to do list,” we tend to be more reflective and thankful when all is going well. But the Apostle Paul reminds us to “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Our gratitude should not sway during the dry, lean seasons. Just as we are commanded to pray continually, we are to give thanks continually with a joyful heart. The following verse rings true in my own life: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11 NIV).
Recently, while working on an incredible painful writing project, I was reminded of how far God has carried me through pain and sorrow. I reflected on the things He withheld from me so I could learn to depend on Him. And I took time to give Him thanks because He forgives my sins, heals my shattered heart, loves me, and blesses me.
It’s tempting to complain about the things that are missing in our life. It’s easy to be resentful or bitter over what we have lost, and self-pity can be very enticing. But if we look around us at what is happening, particular in the Middle East, there is plenty for which to be grateful. As my late mother loved to quote, “Once there is life, there is hope.” In this wonderful country of America, we can be thankful no one is being persecuted or murdered for worshiping a loving and patient God. We can be thankful for the hope of that last harvest that is yet to come.