Thanksgiving in an Unthankful Time

By Ward Shope

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  (Phil 4:6-7)

These are anxious times.  No matter where you are in the world, the pandemic is having some sort of effect on the things you think about, the things you do, and the patterns of your lives.  Do we have school virtually or in person?  Do we get together with friends or should we keep our bubble more intimate?  Do we have a source of income or are we in danger of losing our jobs and all of their benefits?  Can I get the healthcare I need, care for an aged parent, or find toilet paper?

To make things more complicated, we are now in the holiday season.  The Thanksgiving holiday is complicated every year.  Some struggle because they are far from family and want to be closer.  Some struggle because family is closer and they want them to be farther.  And then there are those without much family, or who grieve a family member this time of year.

And if that weren’t enough, there are some of us who just aren’t naturally thankful anytime.  I count myself among those who have mastered the art of noticing just about anything wrong with anything no matter how small and inconsequential.  When we share around the table what we’re thankful for this year, I might likely be scrambling through the recesses of my brain trying to figure out what I can unreservedly give thanks for.  Thank the Lord I have a wife who is my opposite in this regard.

So it always strikes me that Paul the apostle just slips in these little reminders for us to give thanks even in the less than thankful moments, like in the verse above.  It isn’t that he’s asking us to be thankful because we are anxious—a pretty counterintuitive goal.  He’s not even saying that thankfulness is the solution to anxiety—though it can’t hurt.  What he does seem to be assuming is that even when we are anxious for all the aforementioned issues, we can pursue God with a heart of thanksgiving.

For what?  The usual answer for this are things like family, friends and chocolate. These items are for the most part enduring, though they do change over time.  Assuming that the Lord does not return in our lifetimes, we will say goodbye even to those we love at some point.  So what is that item that Paul tells us we can unreservedly give thanks for even when we are anxious, aren’t naturally thankful, and don’t have to fabricate for our fellow guests as we share at the annual Thanksgiving feast.

Simply this: that despite all of our anxiety and the very human mortal sin of unthankfulness (Romans 1:21), God has done the one enduring work of redemption in Christ that binds us with Him, individually and corporately, forever into a people who find peace beyond understanding in the midst of any circumstance no matter how dire.  His steadfast love endures forever!