As we all wake up with eater’s guilt–or have already been awake for many hours and are just returning home with shopper’s guilt–Thanksgiving slowly drifts into the memory bank of holidays-of-years-past. However, before we let this Thanksgiving go to usher in the Christmas season, let us take a moment to reflect.
Last night, our family spent time around the table thanking God for his gracious gifts. Thanksgiving to God is always a dish best shared; I have found that our vocalized thankfulness inspires greater thanksgiving in the hearts of those who hear. As I pondered Psalm 103, I was reminded that our thanksgiving is not offered up to some vague deity or the universe but to a God who “does not deal with us according to our sins” and who has removed our sins “as far as the east is from the west” from us. The blessed thing in our family is that we all come together this once a year to give thanks to the very same God and Father who has blessed each of us individually and specifically in our separate lives.
Thanksgiving is an amazing opportunity where at least once a year we as Christian families can break away from our busy trajectories and come together to acknowledge the fact that the same Father is working all things together for good to those who love him and are called according to his purposes (Romans 8:28). We ought to be astounded that the same Father is working his purposes in the daily details of each of our separate lives, and yet as we gather for Thanksgiving, we acknowledge that in some mysterious and wonderful way the blessings of our lives are somehow intimately woven into the grand tapestry of God’s great purpose.
I was struck this year that the things we are most thankful for are the things we had least control over. Who has any control whether you were born in China, America, or Qatar? And yet, the first word out of anyone’s mouth when asked, “What are you thankful for?” always begins, “I’m thankful for family…” Our families are a blessed part of the foreordained purposes of God. We were born to our parents, into a family of siblings and grandparents and then in-laws and then cousins, etc., because God chose to place us in the very instance and circumstances of history that perfectly fit us into his purposes. When we are thankful for family, we are actually thankful for God’s divine purposes. And if you love and cherish your family, then you affirm that his purposes truly are good.
The best gifts are those that are most lavish and undeserved. On Thanksgiving, we are willing to acknowledge this fact. Yet, the rest of the year, the parts of God’s character and plan that are completely beyond our comprehension or merit are the things we are least likely to discuss: election, predestination, divine providence, and many other truths found plainly expressed in God’s Word.
If you live in America, you cannot deny this unmerited gift: you have unrestricted access to God’s Word. You were, by God’s gracious predestination, born into the opportunity to read, study, and cherish his divinely-inspired Special Revelation. On account of no merit in yourself, God made sure that his Word–penned 2,000 or more years ago–made it down through the ages safely so that it could sit on your bookshelf. Is that accidental? If so, then do not give thanks. However, if you believe God did it purposefully, then it requires your deepest gratitude and thanksgiving.