Several circumstances collided today, which inspired what you are about to read. One incident is an email asking a simple question. Another is the calendar turning to November, and all the stress this month will bring as we finalize an election and consider what to do with the Thanksgiving Holiday. And the final one is the uncertainty as I wait for a phone call with my Covid test results.

The email asked, “what is thanksgiving?” While not explained, I assume they mean the action and not the holiday.  The Biblical term thanksgiving is simply a form of praise that thanks God. There must be more to it, or this is going to be a very short article.

To explore further, let’s look at a few of the many verses concerning the giving of thanks. In the Psalm’s we read, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name.” (Psalm 100:4, NASB95) Thanksgiving is to be our attitude and posture whenever we talk to God in prayer. It’s my habit to begin most prayers with “thank you.”

Paul wrote, “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NASB95) And in Ephesians we read, “always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;” (Ephesians 5:20, NASB95). Folks have read these and taken them to understand that we are to be thankful “for” everything. But that’s not quite accurate and has led some to stumble. How can we be thankful to God for a tragic death or undeserved loss of income, or the randomness of disease?

In Thessalonians, Paul is encouraging them to be thankful to God “in” everything. We can be thankful to God for who He is and for the love He shows us regardless of our circumstances.  Even on our darkest day, God is with us.

This may seem to be at odds with what Paul wrote in Ephesians, “always giving thanks for all things.” Context and language tell us the “all things” in this verse are not necessarily “all things” of life but “because of” or “in view of” all things in the name of Jesus.

Our thankfulness must be based on honesty. Perhaps we can thank God for the fleas as Corrie Ten Boom encourages from her experience in a German concentration camp during WWII. Or maybe we can only thank God in spite of the fleas. I may not be able to thank God for the Covid pandemic, but I can thank Him for the love, caring, and self-sacrifice folks have given in its wake.

As Paul also wrote, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” (Colossians 3:17, NASB95) Being thankful is not an option. It is the first step of praise and worship to God. Through those simple words, we also value each other and recognize something good in them – even if just a small act of kindness.

Most of all, being thankful changes our attitude and opens our eyes to see our world, our circumstances, and God’s love in new and beautiful ways. I’m not very thankful that 2020 has been a crazy year filled with uncertainty, but I am thankful that God has been with us every step of the way. I’m thankful for the love of Jesus Christ and how His light in us leads us from the pits of despair to entering His courts with thanksgiving and praise.

Between writing this article and getting it ready for publication, I did receive my test results. I tested positive for Covid-19. My primary symptom is a loss of taste and smell – which will make for an interesting article sometime in the future. So, while I’m not thankful that I contracted the virus, I am grateful that the symptoms are light, that I have peace in Christ, and that God is in control.

Dale Heinold
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