If you live in the US, during this week there will be constant attempts to hijack your mind and heart. You will be told that if you do not get to a certain store at 4 a.m. you will miss the greatest deal of your lifetime. You be tempted to leave family members on a day set aside to give thanks for all the good gifts in our lives, just so you can go and shop for Christmas which will be weeks away. (And admit it, some of those gifts will probably be for you. An early Christmas? The advertisements convinced you that you deserve it. Why would they lie?)
You will be tempted to lose yourself in football games on TV, even though you are with family you haven’t seen since last year. You will consider blaming the turkey for why you are watching TV and dozing off and on at the same time, because we all know that bird has some ingredient in it that we have to Google on our phones every year because we forgot how to say it. (Tryptophan is the ingredient to save you some data use on your phone. And, it is a myth that it makes you sleepy. It is probably the large amount of carbs in the sides that makes you sleepy. Oops, you probably clicked on the link which used your data anyway. Sorry.)
But I am praying that you will reject most, if not all, of the tempting messages and spend time with friends and family, or in reflection and prayer about what there is to be thankful for in life. Don’t make shopping, football, or overeating the main thing. Make giving thanks the main thing.
This year I have so much to be thankful for in my life. My family is well, my professional life is great, and it is just awesome to be alive and able to give glory to God. Also, this Thanksgiving is pretty special. My brother-in-law, Joey, just spent many months working hard to come back from a devastating illness. In May, he woke up unable to stand. From there, he declined pretty fast, at one point needing to be on a ventilator. He spent weeks in the hospital unable to move. He then spent more time in a rehab facility learning to walk again. He just returned to work this past week, after almost 6 months of tears and a fear about the future. He had every right to sink into despair. But his response? He says the event has changed his life for the better. He knows he just as easily may not have survived, let alone walk again. And now life is so much more precious. He sees the beauty of life in a way he never has before. Talking to him makes you think you are talking to a new man. That’s because, of course, he is a new man! That is worth all the thanks one can muster.
So that leads us to the final temptation this week: the temptation to believe the lie that you have nothing to be thankful for in this life. I realize that someone reading this may not have wanted to get up this morning. I know you might be alone on Thanksgiving and that loneliness is a constant companion of yours. I know that you may be estranged from your family or you may have a loved one who has chosen to be someone other than family. I realize you may have recently gotten a diagnosis that scares the hell out of you. Perhaps a special someone has died since the last Thanksgiving and one less chair at the table this year seems too much to bear. Maybe in your poverty you don’t have the means to prepare a meal and your house will be cold because you haven’t paid your bill in a long time. I don’t know what you are going through, but I get it. This is not the life you signed up for all those years ago.
But God is alive. Don’t believe the naysayers and the critics. God is alive and well. And God has given you gifts that you could never buy. He has given you time, that if wasted, can’t be gained back. He has given you life and a world that is always more good than bad. And if you search your heart and soul, He has given you more than you usually realize. Not one of us is immune to suffering and hardship. But also, not one of us has been given nothing. This week, and every week that follows, make giving thanks the Main Thing. If you commit yourself to becoming more grateful, I believe you will be truly surprised. The world will start seeming much different to you before you know it.