While recently reading President Abraham Lincoln’s original proclamation that set aside the fourth Thursday of November as a day of national thanksgiving—for our country, for our families, and for our friends, I was struck by the profound lessons it can still teach us today about gratitude. (Please take a few moments to read President Lincoln’s proclamation here.)
1. President Lincoln was calling us to be grateful to God for what He had lavished upon us, even while the nation was in the midst of a tragic civil war! Despite the terrible anger, division, human slaughter, and destruction around him, Lincoln gave thanks. He modeled for us an essential spiritual attitude: God never abandons us, even in the midst of horrible strife!
God still calls and waits for His children to focus on Him and His gifts to each of us. As we render Him thanks and get our balance once again, God’s hand will be seen in the blessings He gives. In short, thanksgiving helps us get our eyes off the circumstances, and instead give glory to God for His goodness to us. That doesn’t mean we need to deny circumstances that are difficult personally and nationally—but when we focus on God, and on His presence and love, our vision gets adjusted, our hearing becomes more accurate, and wisdom and hope can rise in our hearts.
We need this attitude this Thanksgiving. We need to pause with our loved ones and friends in the midst of our own political strife and division. We need to thank God for what He has done for us this year: among family members, friendships, coworkers, and fellow parishioners. Take time this Thanksgiving Day or weekend to do that.
2. Take time this weekend to thank God for His personal love for you. Thank Him for all the ways (small and big) that He has saved you from one disaster or another; thank Him for the employment you do have; thank Him for what possessions you do have—nothing is too small, nothing is insignificant. If God has blessed you in ways even seemingly small or hidden, take time to thank Him. He deserves it! If you can give thanks with family and friends, do it. Everyone’s faith will grow and people will become more attentive to the ways God reveals Himself.
3. Thank God for freedom of religion to be able to practice your faith. Thank Him for open churches. Thank Him that we are not being called, at this time, to martyrdom—as our brothers and sisters are every day of the week in the Middle East. Thank God for these modern-day martyrs; may they teach us to foster our own faith and to be grateful for their example.
4. Learn to thank God daily for the small things of life—a phone call completed, a small job done, a letter composed, a friendly word to someone when you are very busy. Develop, as we have often heard, “an attitude of gratitude!”
5. Learn to practice thanking God for the faith you do have, for the hope in Him that you do have, and for the love that flows from the Holy Spirit into your heart and mind, moment by moment.
May gratitude mark our lives, as our Father guides us through the sometimes dark and murky waters of life to the unending joy of heaven! He is faithful!
A blessed and happy Thanksgiving to each of you. You will be remembered in my prayers on Thanksgiving Day.
I am so grateful for my readers and for those who listen to my radio program, Food for the Journey. I also am excited to let you know about a new initiative that will enable me to share a closer relationship and deeper conversation with my listeners, Friends of Food for the Journey. With a gift of $10 each month, you will help sustain the production of new programs, and join me in my work of bringing the Good News of Jesus Christ—a message of hope, mercy, and joy—to listeners across the world. You also will receive a special monthly message from me, and you will be remembered in my prayers and those of my sisters. You can learn more by visiting the donation page here. Thank you for your consideration, and may God bless you.