Giving thanks



Of all the holidays we celebrate in America, it seems to me that Thanksgiving has been the least adulterated.

Oh sure, there are greeting cards and turkey shaped cocktail napkins, but it never really gets much worse than that. Nobody expects presents and there are no make-believe characters that appear and the children don’t hunt for anything and Tom Turkey never takes on a superhero persona. What a relief!

When all is said and done, Thanksgiving is widely acknowledged as a day to feast, rest and give thanks.

But to whom do we give thanks? Or, in some cases, to what?

In our “self-serving, if it feels good do it, look out for #1” culture, there are lots of people who are thankful only to themselves.

They take full credit for every comfort, every accomplishment, every acquisition. Their credo is “Do what’s good for you every chance you get. Don’t inconvenience yourself for anybody and keep a running tally when you do. Remember that you only get to the top through your own sweat and blood and that’s also how you’ll stay there. Staying there will be very tough because there are people just waiting to trip you up and watch you fall on your face. Watch your back.”

Others are thankful for their circumstances and good fortune

Others are thankful for their circumstances and good fortune (knock on wood).

  • They glance at the hunger telethons and “feel so lucky” to have a pantry full of food.
  • They read about the rising number of AIDS related deaths and feel so lucky not to have to deal with such a plague.
  • They hear about a neighbour with cancer and thank their lucky stars not to have it.
  • They learn about the adulterous co-worker and wonder if the rejected wife drove him to it.

These people think they’re the lucky ones and hope it won’t run out.

Then there are the solid citizens

These are the law-abiding folks who work hard, pay taxes on time, and give to charity. They buy houses in good neighbourhoods with good schools where their children will grow up and go to good colleges so they can get good jobs. Then their children can attract the right kind of people in hopes of finding a good mate and buying a house in a good neighbourhood.  Often, (but not always) elitism, racism and ethnocentricity hide their ugly heads in these “good” neighbourhoods.

  • People who are thankful for their ability to “make it on their own”
  • People who are thankful to “have a lot of luck”
  • People who are thankful to “live on the right side of the tracks”

As Christians, we should not desire to fit comfortably into any of these categories.

Yet, my discomfort is palpable even as these words flow from head to paper.  Has self-sufficiency and pride tainted my relationships? Yes. Have I confused good health and material blessing with God’s stamp of approval? Yes. Are there traces of bigotry within me?  Yes. I have so often been arrogant in my estimation of others. God help me.

  • I “helped God” in Haiti once but never on a regular basis in the city slum.
  • I sent clothes to the homeless on several occasions but have never visited them.
  • I wrote to my brother when he was in prison but felt so relieved he was far off on another coast.
  • I shared the Gospel hundreds of times but far too many of those encounters took place without a genuine Christ-like love for the hearer.
  • I have struggled to like people who don’t like me.
  • I try to forgive those who have offended me but I have not forgotten.
  • I have given my life to proclaim one Christ over one body but have regretfully allowed myself to be side-tracked by tunnel-visioned, modern day Pharisees.

I am so deeply grateful that God’s mercies are new every morning.
My heart overflows with thanks for what He accomplished on the cross.

What are you thankful for?

  • If you own just one Bible, that’s more than one third of the world’s population which does not have access to one.
  • If you have fairly good health, that’s more than the one million people who will not survive the week.
  • If you have ample food, clothing and a solid roof over your head, then you are richer than three fourths of the people on the planet.
  • If you have savings in the bank, money in your wallet and spare change around the house, you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.

This information is not meant to make us feel guilty about being comfortable but it should cause us to think about our grumbling.

We should be shouting thanks from our rooftops!

That is not to say an abiding faith in God ensures good health, material blessing and the absence of heartache.

Jesus said we would have trouble—He said to count on it.

And He didn’t mean babies with colic, broken mufflers or torn nylons!

Tell the Christians in Sudan that believers don’t suffer. Tell the Christians who are steeped in grief and agonizing in deep depression that believers don’t suffer. Tell the woman from church whose husband just left her after 32 years that believers don’t suffer. Tell the Godly neighbour who just lost both breasts to that plague called cancer that believers don’t suffer. Tell the precious family who had their bright and beautiful teenager so suddenly taken that believers don’t suffer–the lonely and afraid, the worried and bankrupt, the terminally ill—these storms of life have caused many people to lose their way.

An ancient monk said our sin is not in falling, but rather in not getting back up.
Isn’t that really the essence of faith?

As long as we find ourselves on earth’s soil, the battle will rage.

When I first professed my devotion to Christ, life was a bed of roses, a bowl of cherries and a cool glass of lemonade. Since my conversion in 1972, I have grown in stature, wisdom and knowledge (as every healthy child should.)  Over the years the Lord has allowed  (and sometimes arranged) for me to encounter the thorns, the pits, and some very bitter rinds.

Did He love me more back then?
Not at all.
I believe He trusts me with more now—the sweet as well as the sour.

So, thank Him no matter the circumstance

Whether you find yourself in a season of abundance or need—joy or sorrow—celebration or mourning—be sure to give thanks, to press on, and to get back up when you fall. Give thanks to God solely because He is God. Years ago, my old friend Margaret Becker penned a song titled “For The Love Of You.” She eloquently expresses a desire to love God with pure motives.

How I yearn to love God for the sheer pleasure and privilege of loving God.
Been searching deep inside me to find some hidden clues
About my motivation for loving You.
I know there is the obvious; Your blessings and Your peace.
But what if all your benefits were to suddenly decrease?
Way beyond the things I know I will receive
I want my motivation for loving You to be
For the love, for the love of You, not for what it brings.
For the love, for the love of You, let me do all things;
Not for what You’ll do–but just for the love of You.

Ellie is a speaker, author and Bible teacher. She has written five books, with a sixth on the way. She has touched the hearts and funny-bones of women since 1984. Ellie has been a featured guest on James Dobson's Focus on the Family, James Robison's Life Today, and CBN, among others. Ellie was the speaker at Beauty for Ashes 2012 & 2014.


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