I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness,
and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High. Psalm 7:17
I’ll have to admit that even after being married to a Canadian for nearly 30 years, Thanksgiving on the second Monday of October always sneaks up on me. Fortunately, as a Canadian-American family, I have a second chance at doing a better job planning by the time we get to the fourth Thursday in November. The harvest decorations are usually up at our house for about six weeks, so we don’t have Thanksgiving Day, we have Thanksgiving Season! Of course, most years we celebrate on both dates in the Czech Republic (where there are some traditional harvest festivals, but there isn’t a church or state holiday called Thanksgiving). We typically have used the opportunity to invite friends from church or from English classes over to enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving meal with turkey and pumpkin pie (neither of which were easy to find in the early years) and to make a point of being thankful to God.
Maybe you have noticed recently as I have, especially during these Covid times, that many blogs and articles about health and wellness are mentioning the benefits of gratitude. Just do a search for something like tips for stress relief. For example, one article quoted an expert’s definition that “giving thanks and expressing gratitude is one of the oldest concepts in society. It reminds us of how special, beautiful, and blessed our lives are even when we are faced with challenging, stressful, and overwhelming situations.” The article noted in a sidebar that, “one study of 118 adults found being grateful resulted in significantly fewer physical health problems such as sleep disturbances, headaches, gastrointestinal problems, and respiratory infections.” (verywellmind.com)
Amen to that! It’s a good article overall, except that it doesn’t mention to whom we are ultimately expressing our gratitude. When I looked up “give thanks” on Biblegateway.com, there were 68 references and every one of them was followed by “to the Lord” or “to his name” or something similar. It’s worth taking the time to read through all the verses. For example,
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever! Psalm 107:1
It is no wonder that being grateful and thankful lead to health benefits. It is God who designed our bodies and it is God who is commanding us to give thanks. We can be sure that anything He commands us to do is for our good. And we can also be sure that anything, when He commands us to do something, He will also give us the strength to do it.
One verse in the list of “give thanks” verses that stood out to me as different from the rest is Romans 1:21 where Paul describes why the world is in a sinful mess. “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” That should make us take thanksgiving seriously. There are benefits to giving thanks and consequences when we don’t!
When I was growing up in Minnesota, my church would have a special Thanksgiving service either on Thanksgiving morning or the evening before. An old hymn we sang during those services often comes to my mind during this time of year:
Come, ye thankful people, come,
Raise the song of harvest home;
All is safely gathered in,
Ere the winter storms begin;
God our Maker doth provide
For our wants to be supplied;
Come to God’s own temple, come,
Raise the song of harvest home.
Even though most of us are far removed from the farm in our daily experience, it is good to be thankful to God in our homes and in our church for the harvest and for God’s bountiful provision as He supplies even our wants. Words of gratitude and thankfulness to God don’t naturally flow out of my mouth, so I need songs and psalms rolling around in my head to help me do that.
The last verse of the hymn is a beautiful expression of the kind of harvest that is more to be desired than abundant crops brought from the fields. As we give thanks, let us also petition the Lord to gather each of His chosen children into His family and to return for His church. Maranatha!
Even so, Lord, quickly come,
Bring Thy final harvest home;
Gather Thou Thy people in,
Free from sorrow, free from sin,
There, forever purified,
In Thy garner to abide;
Come, with all Thine angels come,
Raise the glorious harvest home.
Our song for today is 10, 000 Reasons by Matt Redman