It is a common misconception that I believed for too long: thanksgiving is determined by circumstances. If my circumstances were favorable, then I was thankful. If they were not, then I wasn’t feeling necessarily blessed.
Over time, while reading my Bible along with some shocking words from my former pastor, I learned otherwise.
The first time I noticed the correct perspective of thanksgiving was when I was reading about Jesus feeding the five thousand in Mark 6:41.
Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all.
Never before had I paid attention to the fact that He took what was available for feeding the crowd, which was clearly not enough by any stretch of the imagination, and He looked up to heaven and “gave thanks”. Jesus gave thanks before the miracle! He gave thanks for what was not enough!
Thanksgiving was not based upon having “enough” in life. It had less to do with the need and more to do with the assurance afforded in a relationship with a faithful, gracious Father. This was definitely a shift in perspective for me to meditate upon.
Not long afterward, I remember sitting in church one day when as a family, we were in the fight of our lives as we weathered TWO raging storms. I was already very weak and weary with life as we knew it. To make matters worse, there were no signs on the horizon that either of the storms showing any signs of ceasing or even calming.
I felt hopeless, barely able to keep my head above water. I was on the verge of tears much of the time. I remember feeling as though my personality began to change. I used to be an optimistic person, but I was beginning to give way to despair and general negativity.
Then the words of my pastor rang in my ears like a loud bell clamoring for my attention. I don’t even remember the passage of Scripture that day or the title of the sermon. I didn’t need to really. The statement was enough.
The excellencies of Christ are higher and greater than our circumstances.
I jolted to attention! It was as if a beam of light had honed my focus through the darkness I felt engulfing us. Suddenly, I had clarity.
Yes! That is Truth!! The excellencies of Christ are not changed one bit by our unfavorable circumstances. He is not affected by our reality but to the contrary, our reality is affected by His greatness!
There it was! My guiding light through the storm!! That was what I needed to navigate my way through treacherous waters, beating winds, and relentless waves. It was hope in the darkness of our circumstances.
Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell. Then I will go to the alter of God, my joy and my delight. I will praise you……Psalm 43:3-4
And praise Him I did!! I learned the invaluable principle that thanksgiving is based upon the greatness and glory of our eternal God and is always relevant, regardless of temporal circumstances.
This truth shines forth in the life of Daniel, as I read of his dire circumstances from being forbidden to pray to anyone but the current king of Babylon, King Darius. Because of jealousy and intrigue, a trap was set for Daniel so that he would fall out of favor with the king who esteemed him. Enemies conspired to have him killed so they could advance in his place.
Daniel is heroic though in how he responds to his life-threatening situation. Daniel 6:10 reads,
Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God just as he had done before.
What courage! What faithfulness! Daniel not only prayed contrary to the edict but he also gave thanks at the threat of death!
Why??? Because Daniel knew that the excellencies of his God and the true King of Kings, were not affected by his circumstances! They were eternal and irrevocable, far outweighing mere mortal decrees.
Oh friend, what power we have at our disposal! We have the privilege to pierce the darkness of any and all circumstances with the radiant light of thanksgiving, considering the worthiness of our Lord above and beyond whatever threatens our well-being emotionally, physically, mentally or spiritually. This act of giving thanks brings glory to Him but it also guides us through what seeks to defeat us.
We are more than our circumstances, more than what seeks to define us. We are worshippers of God Most High!
Happy Thanksgiving friends! I am so grateful for YOU!
Margaret Ringers says
Thank you for illuminating this often-forgotten truth, Gretchen! Looking forward to Wednesday mornings with you!
Yay!! Me too Margaret!! And I’m glad you enjoyed the post:)
Michele Morin says
Gretchen, I appreciate your reminder toward thankfulness. It’s one of my daily disciplines to write down three things that I’m grateful for, and I know that it is changing me!
I agree Michele! I am a perfectionist and naturally focus on what could be better but using my gratitude journal has changed me from the inside out! Praise His name for that:)
I love the thought about being thankful before the miracle happens! I wonder how many miracles we’ve missed because we didn’t have the right mindset.
Your #FreshMarketFriday neighbor,
I so agree Julie! Eyes to see is what I pray for now so I don’t miss the opportunities He gives me:)
This is such an important truth, Gretchen. And I’m so glad that Sue shared your story over at her place. It’s nice to meet you and visit your blog. Thanks for being so transparent with us and challenging to be thankful before God changes our circumstances.
So glad to meet you Beth and for your visit to my blog:) One of the things I love the most about the Word is how it continually redirects us!
Thank you so much for this! I, too, have been guilty of not giving thanks ALWAYS. I have also had struggles with making God an umbrella – using Him in times of storm and putting Him away during beautiful weather. So not right! We all must remember to praise God in ALL circumstances, difficult as that may be!
When my husband died suddenly and unexpectedly at a young age, and after only six years of marriage, people told me it is all God’s plan. I remember thinking for many YEARS it was God’s plan to do something so devastating to me that I lost faith in God?
But as I look back, I see His mercies EVERY SINGLE DAY and am grateful for them. It has been a long road back to my relationship with Him, but every day I’m getting there. This blog has been such a blessing to me.
I am so grateful that you were blessed! I loved your umbrella analogy about God. Never thought of it that way but you are so right ! I am sorry to hear about the loss of your husband. I cannot imagine the trial you walked through. But I am glad to hear how God is meeting you in that need and you are growing in your relationship with Him in the midst of it. May He comfort you as you continue to process your grief. Thank you for sharing your testimony!
Gretchen, I love this post. I too have experienced learning to be positive and grateful for circumstances I never wanted nor were thankful for. The perspective shift has changed me immeasurably! It’s a daily choice, but one that is oh so worth it! Thanks for sharing, I will too!
Gretchen Fleming says
Amen! Isn’t it so much better than before?! Love when God changes my perspective and it benefits me from the inside out:)
Christin Baker says
What a powerful reminder that the beautiful excellencies of our God are much bigger than anything we face! Our pastor recently preached on the story of Jesus feeding the multitudes, and we now read that story before dinner with our kids. I also marvel at that fact that Jesus gave thanks before performing the miracle. What power there is in giving thanks and praise to our great God!
Gretchen Fleming says
I think it’s amazing that even in this simple grace of thanks, Jesus was our model.
Happy Thanksgiving from Canada! I’m learning to trust in His sovereignty even when live does not make sense! Yes, be thankful in all circumstances. It brings His peace to our hearts, doesn’t it?