Thanksgiving is here—the holiday that is billed as the time for each of us to stop and give thanks. But is that really always possible?
We are in the middle of a pandemic and are living in a polarized world with deep political and racial divisions. And those are just our public problems. We also each have our private list of things that are making life hard. Our family, like many others, notices who is missing more keenly at Thanksgiving. It certainly seems that we have more to grieve, fear, complain, and argue about then to give thanks for.
But then there is that pesky verse from Paul, “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Paul knew that gratitude heals and helps. It brings peace and contentment to weary souls. It turns our world right side up—reminding us that God’s will for us includes hard things, but there is always room and a call for a simple “thank you.”
In giving thanks we follow the one true human this world has ever known. Before Jesus fed the five thousand, he stopped, broke the meager loaves of bread and gave thanks. Somehow those small loaves fed thousands. At his last supper before he died, he broke the bread and gave thanks. The next day, his body broken for us, brought life to his people. After he rose again, when he stopped to eat with the disciples he met on the road to Emmaus, he broke the bread and gave thanks. In the breaking of the bread, in the giving of the thanks, his disciples recognized Jesus.
We learn from Jesus, as always, what it means to be truly human. It means to give thanks in all circumstances to our God who works all things out for our good and his glory. It means to take the time to say thank you and to see Jesus in the breaking of the bread even when life has gone or is going terribly wrong. I find this to be a fight. Everything in me wants to separate my thanks from the mess of life. But to stop and acknowledge God’s provision and care and to look to him for help is what it means to follow Jesus. And that kind of thanksgiving—a honest look at life combined with trust that God is with us—that is a seed that grows and spreads. There is a harvest.
In the dystopian movie The Book of Eli, the main character is guarding the last copy of the Bible. As he tries to take it to safety, he is captured by an evil man who wants to use the Bible to control even more people. He sends a young girl into Eli to try to tempt him. Instead Eli shares his food. Before they eat, he holds her hand and thanks God for the food. She has never heard or seen anything like it. Later as she and her mother eat together, she grabs her mother’s hand and gives thanks—a picture of how giving thanks can spread from one person to the next.
This Thanksgiving, in the midst of turmoil, fears, and grief, we will break bread and give thanks, and so invite Jesus to be with us and ours. It’s worth the fight.
These 366 gospel-saturated selections from Jack Miller’s pioneering sermons offer a fresh exploration of the everyday life of faith. With topics like forgiveness, relationships, temptation, prayer, joy, and perseverance—this daily devotional will help readers to catch Miller’s hope-filled vision for living in light of the gospel.