Thanksgiving – A Healing Time
The Thanksgiving holiday is such a wonderful time for us to pause and stop what we're doing to be grateful for all that is good in our lives and in the world. Giving thanks is especially important to do when we're facing challenges, such as the panic and concern caused by the ups and downs of the national or world economic and political situations.
Thousands of years ago, even before the Pilgrims sat down with the Native Americans to express gratitude, the psalmists saw the importance of thanksgiving:
O come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms. (Ps 95:1, 2 KJV)
- Are we making joyful noises, or are we grumbling?
- Are we coming into the presence of God with praise, or forgetting about God and complaining?
- Are we seeing God as the foundation for our security and prosperity, or are we looking to our bank accounts and government officials?
If we're joyfully acknowledging the absolute power and presence of God, then our lives will be full of joy and will bring blessing and healing to a world that needs healing. If we're not expressing gratitude, then we have an opportunity to do so.
No matter how desperate our situation, there is always something we can find for which to be grateful, even if it takes us some time to figure out what it is, even if it doesn't seem very big. Whatever it is, it's a start -- and an essential one at that.
Let's look at the widow woman whom the prophet Elisha helped. Her husband had died and left her with debts. The creditor was going to take her sons to make them work to pay off the debt. In other words, she was going to be deprived of everything dear to her. Elisha did not panic. He simply asked her, "[W]hat do you have in your house?" When she told him that she only had a "little oil" (II Kings 4:2 NIV), Elisha saw this as a blessing, knowing that she and her family could not lack anything.
He told her to borrow all the vessels she could and to pour the oil she had into each pot. The oil kept flowing until every pot was full. She was able to pay off her debts and "live of the rest" (II Kings 4:7 KJV). That oil took care of her and her sons in a time of great need and for the rest of her life. She had turned to a man whom she knew would help her turn to God and provide her with a spiritual solution. As a result of turning towards God, the woman experienced abundance.
The world will try to tell us that we're running on empty, that our economy is unstable, and that there aren't any viable solutions to our problems. It's tempting to believe the news media and get discouraged. If we keep looking to the world to fix the problems, then we won't find the best solutions. The best solutions always come from God.
We read in the Bible that "those who seek the LORD lack no good thing" (Ps 34:10 NRSV). When we look to God, we realize that we do, indeed, have the tools necessary to stimulate our economy, to face corruption, and to meet people's needs. We can heal the sense of fear, panic, worry, and depression through thanksgiving. We can flood the market and the world with gratitude. This gratitude can help us recognize spiritual ideas that translate into practical solutions.
This is what Jesus did: he looked to the spiritual idea and met the daily needs of the people. He fed the multitudes who had been with him for a few days (probably without eating) on two separate occasions. Just as Elisha did, Jesus first found out what they had -- a couple loaves of bread and a few fish. It didn't seem like enough. Then he "blessed" (Matt. 14:19 KJV) or "gave thanks" (Matt 15:34) for what they did have. He showed his gratitude. As a result, the disciples were able to distribute bread and fish to thousands upon thousands of people. There was food left over! There was abundance. Abundance accompanies thanksgiving.
It's so very worth it to acknowledge what we already have "in our house," to look for the blessings, to have a grateful heart. In fact, gratitude is the easiest way (and perhaps the only way) we can lift ourselves and others out of the pit of discouragement and despair that comes from thinking we don't have enough or that we'll always be lacking something. Gratitude is the natural antidote to poverty, lack, depression. We can't express gratitude and feel deprived at the same time. It's impossible. These feelings are mutually exclusive. When our hearts are full of thanksgiving, they are full of joy.
With joy we can sing with the psalmist, "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want" (Ps 23:1). We cannot lack anything we need, nor can our nation or the world. Since God is our Shepherd, we are His sheep. God is tenderly and expertly taking care of each one of us. Just as shepherds know their sheep individually, so God knows us. Naturally, we feel grateful for our Shepherd, and we continue our song: "So we thy people and sheep of thy pasture will give thee thanks for ever: we will shew forth thy praise to all generations" (Ps 79:13). That's a promise we're making to God -- to praise God, to be grateful to God, to show God's goodness to the rest of the world.
Thanksgiving gives us a chance to see things in a purer perspective -- in God's perspective. God sees and provides all good abundantly. Thanksgiving enables us to embrace God's abundance. It is also this very spirit of Thanksgiving, of gratitude, that prepares us to receive the spirit of Christmas and opens our hearts wide to the Christ.