I love Thanksgiving. In my childhood, as well as now with a family of my own, it has long been a season of tradition(s), fellowship, and needed reflection. Thanksgiving launches the “holiday season,” a time that has culturally been filled with more positivity, respect, and all-around better attitudes. The season simply lends itself, for many, to thinking somewhat differently—maybe more positively(?)—than we do the rest of the year. By and large, it is a time that is characterized more than most others by generous giving, respect, and gratitude.
Yet, it seems harder than ever to bring ourselves to even consider that we need to be thankful. I cannot tell you the number of times, over this past year, that I have heard this or a similar phrase: “I am having a hard time finding things to be thankful for.” I need not even list the reasons as to why. We know them. They are ever before us. The state of the world, no matter where you look or what subject you consider, seems to be in some level of disarray, with no real end or resolution on multiple matters in sight.
But it is in these very thoughts where we are able to exegete our hearts, examine not just what we are thinking, but how we are thinking, and prayerfully remove thanklessness from our minds by putting thankfulness back in the Thanksgiving season.
Our perspective about our circumstances speaks a great deal about our attitudes. The mindset we have typically shapes how we think and feel. This applies from everything to our attitudes, to politics, to relationships with others. But you see, that is the point of perspective. It reveals what we are primarily thinking about. If our primary concerns are things like fatigue, “season-materialism,” and the institutions of this world, we have elevated secondary matters—earthly matters—to or over the place of primary (Jesus-centered) matters. If we are more concerned or consumed about what is happening in our human experience to the point of a wrong perspective, the result is that we are neglecting the very things God has called us to be thankful for.
Simply put, when we are thinking about earthly things instead of Godly things, the result is assured thanklessness.
We need to orient our mindset(s) and change our perspective(s) to think through the lens of the gospel in all discussions, in every circumstance, and in every thought we think, feeling we feel, and action we engage in. This means that everything about our approach to life recognizes the following…
- All humans are literally, not figuratively, born sinners (Psalm 51:5).
- Because all humans are sinners and thus fail to meet Creator-God’s standard(s) of what is right (Romans 3:23), there is discipline for said failure: eternal separation from God in hell (Revelation 20:15).
- God loves his creation: people (you, me, and every human ever), enough to send a portion of himself in the person of Jesus, to die on a cross for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)!
- Jesus was literally raised from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:4)! And if we confess our sin (1 John 1:9), and believe in the resurrection of Jesus alone as having paid the price required of sin-necessitated discipline (Ephesians 2:8-9), then regardless of what happens in this human, earthly place, we have something BETTER on the horizon (Romans 8:38-39): eternal rest in heaven with Jesus Christ himself where all concern and contention is evaporated.
- If the above characterizes your approach to life in all thought and action, you can then recognize that this world is NOT the ultimate home of the Christian. This pandemic is a trial that is designed to grow, refine, and focus us. Racial tension is designed to remind us that one day, every tribe, tongue, and nation will sing of the glory of God together; a theological imperative Christians should be pursuing in the here and now. This election season is designed to remind us of our Christian values, that no king or human government will ever measure up to God and we must then be thankful that God is the ultimate king of all the nations, regardless of their leader(s) (Psalm 47).
What this means is this: as Christians, we have much to be thankful for when we view our human life correctly and diligently pursue the right perspective about it.
If you are struggling to be thankful, it could be that: (1) you are not truly thinking through the lens of your salvation and are in need of a perspective adjustment in the form of confession and repentance. Surrender the veiled faithlessness of this moment and ask God to fill you with faith-filled thankfulness once again!
Or, it could be (2), maybe you don’t know Jesus as Savior (for which I refer you to the bullet points above). This is important: awareness of God as real, awareness he died for the sins of people, and awareness you need a Savior does not equate to belief. Belief is an internal conviction of confidence. Belief changes thought and conduct. Awareness is simply knowledge. It could be that you are unable to be thankful because you need God in you to bring your heart and mind to life. If that’s you, I encourage you to reread those bullet points above and then reach out to me or another pastor at church; allow one of us the privilege of sharing the hope of Jesus and the resulting thankfulness that he brings to you.
Thankfulness is about more than the holiday season—it’s a posture of our hearts, the filter our minds should consider life through, and the means by which we act. It reflects the reality that while life may be hard, the life-changing power of the gospel reminds us that “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation [cultural tension, human institutions, contentious elections], will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39, emphasis added). And as such, thankfulness should be our pursued, default posture.
My application for you in this season is simple today: examine your heart and mind.
- Are you struggling with thanklessness because you are ignoring gospel realities?
- Are you more caught up in materialism, cultural tensions, and the election than remembering you are a citizen of heaven?
- Are you taking every opportunity and making it a gospel opportunity?
Answering these and other questions in heart examination offers you the opportunity to find and act on a perspective of thankfulness (again)!
Stephen Ganschow, Ph.D.
Biblical Counselor, Training Program Instructor
Stephen Ganschow, Ph.D., has been with Reigning Grace since its inception. While he provides some long-distance counseling, his current role is strategic development, consultation, and teaching within Reigning Grace Institute as an instructor. Additionally, he serves as the Pastor of Counseling at Bethel Church in northwestern Indiana. He is a Level II-certified biblical counselor with the ACBC, is certified by the IABC, and has various specialty certifications in a wide array of counseling disciplines. Additionally, he is pursuing an Ed.D. in Community Care Counseling, with an emphasis on the pastoral counseling and the local church.