So, what are you most thankful for in 2020, this epic year of the novel coronavirus, aka COVID? Finding it difficult to think of something, perhaps?
Aren’t you thankful that for most of this year, whenever you have emerged from the relative security and safety of your home, you had to wear a facemask? Just think of the limitless opportunities for making a facial fashion statement for family, friends, and complete strangers!
Millions of parents discovered the delights of virtual learning as their children exchanged classrooms for the family computer. What about the daily challenges of having to juggle schedules and figuring out who would watch the kids when mom or dad had to leave the house? For those who always wondered what it would be like to work from home, now they know. That’s something to be thankful for, right?
Sports fans have had the opportunity to learn new worries, not only whether their teams would win the big game, but also the suspense of whether the big game would even be played at all – or if it would fall victim to COVID. Given thanks for that yet?
And what about not having to worry about having to get up Sunday mornings to go to church, because for much of the year that wasn’t a possibility? We found out that online services – even the most high-tech and sophisticated – are a poor substitute for in-person, side-by-side worship. So can we give thanks for that?
Okay. All sarcasm aside, it’s been one tough, disruptive year. Life we’d grown accustomed to turned upside-down. Even worse, we’re wondering if it will ever be turned right-side-up again. Many have suffered personal loss, whether it involved loved ones, jobs, financial hardships, or health setbacks. So, with those things in mind, how can we be properly thankful with Thanksgiving Day fast approaching?
The Bible gives us the answer. Thankfulness – and thanksgiving – aren’t to be dictated by feelings or our current mood. They’re determined commitments, conscious decisions possible only as we focus on the limitless love and goodness of God.
Being thankful, believers are told, isn’t conditional; it’s not a choice. In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 we’re told, “give thanks in all circumstances [in everything give thanks] for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” It doesn’t say, “unless…” or, “except when….” All means ALL. Everything mean EVERYTHING.
Psalm 50:14 tells us both what we’re to do, and why we’re to do it: “Offer to God thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High. Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” Another translation says, “Sacrifice thank offerings to God…” with the same assurance, “I will deliver you, and you will honor me.” After a year as fraught will challenges and difficulties as this one, that’s one great promise.
It's at times like these that we need to cling to Romans 8:28, not as a handy cliché, but with total confidence: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” We may not know why things happen – or how the Lord will use them to accomplish His divine purposes – but that’s the assurance we have from His Word.
Because of that, there’s another passage concerning thanksgiving that we can embrace without reservation: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). Then we’re told, if we do this, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
There’s no denying that 2020 has been a year to forget in many respects. If for some reason living through a pandemic was on your bucket list, you can definitely check that one off. Nevertheless, we trust in a God who has taken us through tough times before and is more than capable of doing it again.
For that reason, we can approach this Thanksgiving Day with genuine thankfulness, knowing that one day and in some way, He will have worked through it all “to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20). Happy Thanksgiving!