How to Celebrate Thanksgiving Well . . . Even if It’s Not Happy
How to Celebrate Thanksgiving Well . . . Even if It’s Not Happy

By Michael C. Mack

Several years ago as the Thanksgiving holiday approached, I decided to dig a little deeper into how the Bible uses that word, thanksgiving, and I’m very thankful that I did! I discovered three perspectives I had never really considered before. Perhaps they will help you better understand and live with thanksgiving . . . all year long.

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1. Thanksgiving Is an Attitude, Not Just a Day

Look at the following Bible verses, especially the context for thanksgiving:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:4-7).

What’s the context? First, don’t miss the word with. “With thanksgiving” means it’s an attitude that is part of our lives. Instead of worrying, we are to be thankful. In every situation. In every circumstance of life. Even if you don’t have much in life to be happy about.

Several years ago, during the darkest, scariest, saddest time of my life, I was very anxious about my circumstances. During that time, Philippians 4 became a go-to passage for me. I decided to try to substitute worrying with prayer, presenting myself and my circumstances to God, trusting him with the outcome. I began to learn how to pray with thanksgiving! I learned to be thankful well before I received any answers from God. I discovered how to be thankful before God responded to my prayer—even if he didn’t respond as I wanted him to. I learned to trust him!

People who love God learn to trust him no matter what, in every situation and circumstance (see Philippians 4:11-13).

Thanksgiving is an attitude you can have year-round.

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2. Thanksgiving Is Sacramental and Sacrificial

The word for thanksgiving in Philippians 4:6 is also used in 1 Corinthians 11:23, 24: “The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’”

The word used in both cases is a form of the Greek word eucharistos. Sound familiar? Eucharist literally means “giving thanks” or “gratitude.” Eucharist became the word believers (sometime before 100 AD) used for the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.

This is incredibly significant! As followers of Christ, we gather together every week to give thanks for Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, which bought for us eternal life with him.

Yet there’s more. Jesus celebrated this meal, this Lord’s Supper, and gave thanks to God shortly before he was betrayed, handed over to the authorities, tried, scourged, and finally crucified. Jesus was giving thanks—eucharisteo—as he entered into his deepest and darkest life circumstances.

Thanksgiving is often sacrificial, an act of surrender!

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3. Thanksgiving Is an Act of Worship

That word, eucharistos, is defined in a Greek dictionary as an act of worship. Worship is more than something we do in a building one day a week. Like thanksgiving, it’s an attitude. Jesus said our worship is about our hearts, not our locations (John 4:21-24).

Happiness is circumstantial, but true thanksgiving can be lived out despite the circumstances. Let’s live this and every day with thanksgiving, even if Thanksgiving Day isn’t necessarily happy.

This article is adapted from Michael’s blog at www.SmallGroupLeadership.com

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