Today is Thanksgiving Day here in Canada. In a few hours we will sit down to a turkey dinner followed by lemon cheesecake and we'll talk about some of the things we're thankful for. It's a great conversation to have, but it shouldn't be limited to one day.
In a familiar passage of Philippians, Paul wrote, "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:4-7).
There is so much good advice in these four verses! First, we are told to rejoice always. Paul feels so strongly about this he repeats it. Obviously, not everything in life causes us to rejoice, but we can always rejoice in this - God is near, even in those awful moments when hope and joy seem impossible.
Paul tells us not to be anxious about anything. Again, this sounds tough. There will always be things in this life that we wish were different, but Paul tells us not to dwell on them, not to worry or be anxious. What are we to do instead?
Pray. Ask God to change those things the need to be changed. But while we're asking Him to change the things we don't like, we also need to remember to thank Him for all the things that are good in our lives.
I think thanking Him serves two purposes. First of all, it's important to acknowledge all that God has given us. Everything, big or small, comes from God. Family, friends, employment, food, health, home, vehicle, clothing, books, pets, everything. "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows" (James 1:17). If we give a gift to someone, it's nice to be thanked. My husband Paul (not to be confused with the apostle Paul!) has taught the boys to say thank you to me for every meal. A quick, "Thanks for supper, Mom" is a nice gesture and a reminder to them that the food didn't magically appear on the table.
Thanks to God doesn't have to be elaborate and full of fancy words. Neither does it have to take a long time. When you're running errands with a toddler in tow, a quick "God, thank you for this sunny day" is enough.
The other purpose for giving thanks is to remind ourselves of all God has already done and is still doing for us. Most importantly, He "so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). If He has love and power enough to save us from our sins and give us eternal life, surely He can help in every other situation we face. Remembering that is one way of allowing that unimaginable peace of God to guard your heart and mind, and to keep from worrying and being anxious about everything.
Here are Paul and my boys, God's gifts for which I am most thankful!