We are a few short weeks from the celebration of Thanksgiving. But it is important to remember that the giving of thanks is less about a place on the calendar than an attitude of the heart — and not just by people of faith.
Unfortunately, there is a constant pull toward the altar of happiness; we tend to hold in high regard and be thankful for the things that make us happy. As a result, at times our attitude toward thankfulness is similar to the little boy, who when asked by his mother why he didn’t pray before bed, replied, “I don’t need anything.”
There are times when we may question what we have to be thankful for, particularly in places of need or difficult times. From a biblical perspective, Paul wrote to the churches of Thessalonica to be thankful in circumstances rather than for things. “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 NIV).
It may sound trite, but I believe attitude either promotes or reduces gratitude. I wish I could say I always have a great attitude, but mine often needs to be checked and adjusted. While it may be an oversimplification to suggest the best way to maintain a thankful attitude is to practice gratitude, it seems to me at least a logical conclusion. Gratitude seems in short supply and that is too bad since everyone likes to be thanked once in a while.
A pastor friend of mine told me he had finished a series about the four hardest things to say. If my memory serves they were: I am sorry. It was my fault. Will you forgive me? Thank you. To illustrate further, Winston Churchill told the story of a sailor who dove into Plymouth Harbor to save a drowning boy. A few days later, he recognized the boy with his mother. The boy nudged his mother and they started toward the sailor. “Are you the man who pulled my son from the water?” Yes ma’am, he replied. To which the mother responded, “Where’s his cap?”
I think we can agree that was not exactly the kind of thankfulness the young sailor might have anticipated. In looking through several verses connected with the giving of thanks, I was drawn to this one from the ninth Psalm: “I’m thanking you, God, from a full heart, I’m writing the book on your wonders. I’m whistling, laughing, and jumping for joy; I’m singing your song, High God.”
I’m not sure if you are planning a “whistling, laughing and jumping for joy” Thanksgiving. But perhaps we can encourage each other that, while our circumstances may change, God never does and while happiness is never promised, we can be thankful for His great love.
Bill Upton is chaplain of the Tooele City Police Department.