Giving Thanks When Times Are Tough

Economically, relationally and physically these are tough days for many people.  To many, it would seem a bad year to celebrate Thanksgiving.  Perhaps some would have liked to have forgotten it and held out hope for better next year.  Yet, we are to give thanks in everything and at all times. 

So what is thanksgiving? 
It's A Time to Reflect

It's A Time to Reject

It's A Time to Renew

It's a Time to Reflect

It's a time to reflect on the people, past and present who have enriched our lives (Phil. 1:3; 1 Th. 3:9-10).  Each of us could easily think of individuals who have blessed us.  Some have gone on to their eternal destinies while others are still with us.  In either case, it is not a time to be sad or depressed for who is missing but to be grateful for the time that we had with them and the blessing they brought us (or for those who are still with us -- that they still bring us today).  

It's a time to reflect on the possessions that we have.  We shouldn't dwell on that which we do not have but what God has given us (Phil. 4:10-13).  And often, those who have the least seem to be the most grateful.  Many of us can remember doing without for a time and then getting back to a place where we had plenty.  That made the time of plenty all the sweeter, did it not?

It's A Time to Reject

We should reject greed, jealousy and covetousness (Col. 3:5-8a).  The recent campaign season we went through was shocking in that a political campaign sought to promote and encourage the coveting of what others had.  God has given to us and compared to the rest of the world, the poorest of us are very rich indeed.  

We should reject ingratitude (Phil. 2:14-18).  God has given us much for which to be grateful.  His presence is more than enough but beyond that, we have others to walk through tough times with us as well.  And all around us are plenty of reasons to give God thanks.  Instead of focusing on what we don't have, we should be thankful for that which we do have.  We are so blessed yet are we thankful? 

We should reject anxiety (Phil. 4:6-7).  The human condition is such that we are prone to give in to worry.  Many times our problems are much bigger than we are but our God is much bigger than they are.  Why do we have trouble remembering that?  

We should go to God in prayer and ask for His peace.  His peace doesn't mean the absence of the trial or trouble or its shortening in duration.  Peace comes because God relieves the trial or burden or it comes because He relieves His child.  

And notice the thankfulness comes in the midst of the asking.  I think that may be a faith move.  

"Thank you, God, for hearing my prayer, for seeing my need, for being with me through my trial.  I have you; you are enough.  And whether you still the storm or still your child, I will have peace and for that I give you thanks ahead of time by faith."  

Thanksgiving in hard times is a time to reflect on what God has given us in people and possessions.  We are so blessed.  It is a time to reject greed, ingratitude and anxiety. 

It's a Time to Renew  

A Time to Renew One’s Commitment to be Thankful (Col. 4:2;  1 Th. 5:16-18).   

We should be thankful to God, to family, friends and neighbors and also to the family of God.  Thankfulness requires an object, someone to whom to be thankful.  That someone is God (Col. 1:3).  

We should renew our commitment to be thankful to family, friends and neighbors.  So often, members of our families go through so much with us and yet when others desert us, there they still are.  Sure we have family issues and family drama but in each family there is someone or some people who bring us much joy, blessing and perspective.  Be thankful for them.  

Friends, we all have them, and some are closer than brothers.  Be thankful for your friends, especially in the tough times when they answer the phone at 4 a.m. or they go the extra mile for you or are that shoulder to cry on.  Give God thanks for those friends who can speak truth to you in such a way that you know you are loved and that they are right.  

As for neighbors, we all have those bothersome ones who know all the right buttons to push.  They are obnoxious and insensitive.  Yet, within each neighborhood is that individual or family that are God's gift to the neighborhood or at least to your family.  Be grateful for them and show them your appreciation.  

Lastly, there is the family of God (Col. 1:3-8, 12-15; 1 Th. 2:19; 3:9; 4:9-10).  Again, no family is perfect and no church is perfect.  If you find the perfect church, then run, otherwise you will ruin it.  In all seriousness, though, you can think of individuals among the people of God who have been such a blessing to you. Give God thanks for them.  

A story has been told of a man who visited a barn where Satan stores all of his seeds.  The man noticed that the seeds of discouragement far outnumbered any other.  Why was that, he wondered aloud.  To this, Satan explained that it was a highly successful and resilient seed; it seemed to grow nearly anywhere.

"Well, where wouldn't it prosper?" inquired the man.

"In the heart of a grateful person," responded the Devil.  

Are you that grateful person?  Times are tough, that there is no doubt.  However, even in these lean times, there is much for which to be grateful.  Take the time to express your thanksgiving to God for the people who enrich your life, for the possessions you have, not giving in to greed, covetousness, or jealousies.  Don't be consumed by worry but pray for God to give you peace and a sense of relief in your struggles.  Then renew your commitment to be thankful, for God, for family, friends, neighbors and for the family of God. You are indeed one blessed person but are you thankful?  Am I?

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