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“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Our family has a tradition of gathering around the Thanksgiving table and beginning our time together by sharing one thing that we’re grateful for that year. And so it goes— around the table with everyone adding their deep thoughts or silly remembrances from the past 12 months. Through the years I remember such blessings being voiced as new babies, surviving moves, finding new jobs, getting over illnesses, new marriages, interesting vacations, finishing up educational goals, new cars, new pets, etc.
Recently we were with a large group of military couples—all ranks and branches— where every couple in the room offered one thing for which they were grateful. It’s not hard to imagine what was shared: “I’m grateful to be home.” “I’m grateful to be alive.” “I am thankful for my spouse who kept everything going at home while I was gone.” “I’m thankful that we, as a couple, survived the deployment.” When we are with a group like that my husband and I know that we are standing on hallowed ground. There is a deep sense of wonder at how God has provided and protected. . . .and there were a few tears by the time we were done sharing our many blessings.
It doesn’t matter where we are, or which military group we are with, the proclamations of gratitude are profound and powerful—and deeply felt. I read a devotional recently, however, that reminded me to be a little more specific in my thanks-giving. You see, what we are really asked to do in Scripture is to give thanks—and more specifically, to give thanks to God. So the next time I am asked what I am thankful for, I am going to say, “I am thankful to God for _______.” No doubt this is always implied by our families and our groups as they are sharing their deep gratitude—but I think it’s a good reminder that everything, everything is from God—every breath that we take, every moment of every day, everything around us in creation—everything.
I was also raised with a weekly singing of the Doxology at our church. I remember a time or two around our Thanksgiving table when we closed out our time of thankful sharing (before the food got too cold) with the singing of this centuries old chorus:
“Praise God from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him all creatures here below.
Praise Him above all heavenly hosts.
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.”
Jill Carratini, a favorite devotional writer for Ravi Zacharias’ A Slice of Infinity, on November 24, 2008, wrote:
“Being thankful is therefore always more than a glib note of gratitude or a warm sentiment in general; it requires something far more personal. It not only chooses to recognize the gifts before us, but recognizes that there must also be a giver. There is someone to thank. There is one from whom all blessings flow.”
The second reminder that struck me this year was from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. Perhaps this year, more than other years, you are questioning what God’s will is for your life. And in this Scripture verse it is so clearly stated, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Margaret Manning, also a great writer for A Slice of Infinity, shared her thoughts on this verse as a definitive proclamation for God’s will in our lives:
“Thanksgiving is God’s will for God’s people because when we give thanks for who God is and what God has done in our lives, there is no room for jealousy of what others’ have, no room for complaining about what we lack. Even in times of deepest sorrow, there is a joy that rises up on the heart when praise comes even with tears. Thanksgiving makes the heart full of gladness which overflows from our lives and spills out into acts of kindness and generosity. When we are grateful, we cannot help but share our gratitude. And this is the will of God for our lives. I am grateful for a day set apart to focus on thanksgiving, but I am challenged to live into God’s will for my life by giving thanks in everything, every day of the year.” (November 25, 2008)
There are many times in my life when we have wondered what God’s will was for us as a military family. Questions arose such as “Which assignment do we put in for?” “Should we take the assignment at the base in the States, or try for an overseas one?” “Which training track does God want me to go into?” “Is the timing right for an unaccompanied tour, or should we wait until after the next assignment?” “Should we buy a house, rent, or live on base?” “Should the family stay near the base during this deployment, or move home with the folks?” “Do we stay in the service or get out?” Decisions were oftentimes made on the basis of open doors vs. closed doors, or maybe a list of pros and a list of cons. Prayers were spoken and decisions were made with thanks for His guidance.
Yet God’s Word is very clear—in all things we are to give thanks. That is His will for us. Easier said than done at times that are challenging (like deployments that keep families separated during the holidays), but His promises are always for our good. “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess His name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” (Hebrews 13:15-16) It is indeed through Jesus Christ that we can offer our praises to God for the freedom we have in forgiveness and in the knowledge of eternal life with Him.
Finally, and we shouldn’t need a reminder for this, we thank God for each one of you who are serving our country so faithfully (that includes the families!), all over the world. As Paul says in his letter to the Philippians (chapter 1, verse 3), “I thank my God every time I remember you.” We appreciate so much your sacrifices and give thanks to God for your gifts to all of us so that we, and others in this world, can live in freedom.
Questions to Share:
1. Name two things for which you are thankful to God this year.
2. Tell your spouse two things for which you are thankful to God for them this year.