Dr. Hal Brady
The real strength of Thanksgiving itself is not to be found in some kind of nostalgic look back at pre-colonial America. As important as that may seem, what are our needs for pilgrims tracking across the snow and Indians being included in a feast? Our need today is much more contemporary. Our urgent need in these days is for guidance or insight to know how to deal with the modern-day cynicism and despair that has gripped so many individual lives, communities, and our nation itself.
In other words, we need a different attitude, a fresh way of looking at things.
So Thanksgiving emerges as a life-affirming force, an encouragement to put the needs of others above our own, to find hope in the midst of the hectic and to grasp love when so many voices all around us are spewing division, discord, and mistrust. You see, Thanksgiving is grounded in God and is a matter of the heart.
For the remainder of this article, let’s break it down. First, thanks or gratitude is a gift! I like the way John Greenleaf Whittier expressed it in “The Eternal Goodness.” He wrote: “Yet in the maddening maze of things, And tossed by storm and flood, To one fixed trust my spirit clings; I know that God is good.” Whittier had perceived grace in the goodness of God, and he was grateful.
Who can ever forget the words of the remarkable Helen Keller? That blind and deaf saint put it this way, “I thank God for my hardships. Through them, I have found myself, my work, and my God.” Like Whittier, Helen Keller had perceived grace in the goodness of God, and she was grateful.
Second, thanks or gratitude is a lift! Upon seeing the same pupil again, the annoyed principal said, “This is the fifth time this week you’ve been sent to my office. What do you have to say for yourself?” The small boy replied, “Thank heavens it’s Friday.”
I think of all the observances that we have in this country one of my favorites is Thanksgiving. This is because it is not so loaded with hustle and bustle and hype, like many others. This one is just where family and friends get together and express their gratitude to God for God’s gracious works in their lives and share fellowship together. What a wonderful day Thanksgiving is! Because we express our gratitude, it is a lifting day.
The Apostle Paul writes to the Philippians and to us, “Have no anxiety about anything, but by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your request be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). And then Paul speaks of peace. "With Thanksgiving!" What a wonderful lift for us!
Finally, thanks or gratitude is a shift! An “attitude of gratitude” does more than just say, “thanks.” It changes our way of life – we stop thinking only of ourselves and begin focusing on God and others.
A man's car stalled on a lonely road. Another man came along in his automobile, stopped, took out a rope, and pulled the other car to a garage. The helping man refused any payment but said, “If you really want to show your gratitude, buy a rope and always carry it in your car.” As we can see, it’s a shift away from ourselves toward others. Thank God for what Thanksgiving can do.
Once more, what is called for is a different attitude, a different way of looking at things. Thanksgiving or living thankfully is the remedy for much of our malaise.
Dr. Hal Brady is a retired pastor who continues to present the Good News of Jesus Christ and offer encouragement in a fresh and vital way though Hal Brady Ministries.