For the Many Good Things

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Thankfulness is a feeling. It’s also a discipline, habit, or choice. You can be thankful without feeling thankful. You can express thanks because it is right. But the giving of thanks is sweetest when you feel it and choose it, when you perceive that an expression of gratitude is proper, and, without hesitation, you say the words, make the gesture, bow your head low, and wonder at the fullness of joy that has flooded your heart.

This year has been one of transition and change. Molly and I are in new roles and new jobs. Our children have grown and changed. We continue to be blessed by friends and neighbors, and to experience the ongoing wonderment that comes as relationships deepen and change in ways that only do more to sweeten and enrich the lives we have been given.

We’re celebrating Thanksgiving with my side of the family this year. It has been a while since our group has seen cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents. The kitchen will be busy tomorrow, the house will be filled with good smells, and before the day is through I will have eaten far too much. I’ll have watched more football tomorrow on television than I likely have in the preceding two years combined. I’ll delight in small things, like telling silly jokes or playing a game or assembling a puzzle with a niece or nephew.

For the many good things this year has brought, and for the many more good things to come, I am thankful.

If you’ve been a reader of mine for years, or for only a short time, I hope you will take stock of things for which you can be thankful. Number a piece of paper from one to ten. Then, fill in the list. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 exhorts us to “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Some circumstances are more conducive to the keeping of this command than others, some things are easier for us to be thankful for than are others. Nevertheless, there are always things, small or great, for which one can give thanks.

We can give thanks for things like our next breath, or the cognitive capacity to philosophize concerning whether present circumstances warrant the giving of thanks. I don’t want to take the former for granted, and I don’t want to miss the significance of the latter.

As human beings, we have been given some capacity to evaluate whether or not we find a thing praiseworthy or good. Sure, there is a subjective element to such a judgment. But, as a believer in truth, I think there is an objective good there that can be discovered, rooted ultimately in God, the giver of every good and perfect gift. If you chase thanksgiving far enough, you’ll find yourself in praise.

So I’m thankful this year, once again, for the usual things. I’m thankful for faith, fellowship, and for Jesus. I’m thankful for family, church, community, employment, and good health. I’m thankful for coffee and books and the natural world. I’m thankful for those nearest to me, who for these next few days will be my family, but I am also thankful for those who are “far.”

As years have passed and settings have changed, I’ve been amazed to reflect upon the many friendships that have been made, how many wonderful people I’ve had the privilege of knowing. While I’m thankful for “things,” I’m most thankful for people. Which is amazing, because at one time of my life, I can recall not liking people all that much. God has changed me. There has been a mutation, and for the better.

I’m thankful for being thankful, for feeling and choosing thanks, not only because it is commanded, but because thankfulness is in and of itself a good, a doxological reaction, an offering, a blessing in response to blessedness, a sign. Good gifts point to a Giver.

Give the Giver thanks this Thanksgiving. Give glory for the glory. It’s what you’re made to do.

Discern, then Respond

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