My favorite national holiday is Thanksgiving. It brings family and friends together around a table laden with food. The fact that my wife is an excellent cook makes it all the more enjoyable.
Thanksgiving has a fourth F, though — faith. It is an inherently theological holiday. Thanks is always given to someone, after all.
While we are grateful for the farmers who raised the turkeys we are eating, the grocers who sold them, and the cooks who prepared them, Thanksgiving is not about the supply chain that put food on our tables.
Nor is it about the people around those tables. My father died earlier this year. His loss makes me especially grateful for family still here. Even so, gratitude moves past the human to the divine.
Which brings us to Scripture: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” That imperative is found seven times in Israel’s hymnody (1 Chronicles 16:34; 2 Chronicles 5:13; Psalms 106:1; 107:1; 118:1,29; and 136:1). It expresses the fundamental connection between theology (who God is) and spirituality (how we respond to Him).
Proclaiming the goodness and love of God is easy when the table is piled high and the chairs around it are filled. It’s harder when the cupboard is bare and loved ones are absent. That’s why Scripture doesn’t root gratitude in our circumstances, which change, but in God’s character, which doesn’t.
We see this clearly in Psalm 107, which describes people in a variety of parlous circumstances: hunger and thirst in the desert (verses 4–9), darkness in prison (verses 10–16), nearness to death (verses 17–22), and terror on the high seas (verses 23–32). Sometimes, sin is the cause of their peril (verses 10–12,17), but not always. Sometimes, life is just hard.
Whatever the circumstance, God is good and loving. Psalm 107 portrays this truth in terms of a reversal of fortune. The hungry are fed, the prisoners freed, the sin-sick healed, and the storm-tossed brought safely to harbor. The Psalmist exhorts all with these words, “Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind (verses 8,15,21,31).
I don’t know what your circumstances are this year — good, bad, or something in between. I can’t say when God will come to your aid. I know He will, however. It is against His good and loving nature to ignore those who cry for His help.
God’s goodness is the reason for our gratitude.
P.S. This article is cross-posted with permission from InfluenceMagazine.com.