Changed by Thankfulness

Friday I began seeing 30 Days of Thankfulness posts pop up all over my Facebook newsfeed. This is now a thing. Social networks started a holiday tradition that’s becoming a widely accepted part of celebrating Thanksgiving. I love the idea of stretching out the thankfulness over the whole month of November, because I think something unique happens when we fix our minds on being grateful for an extended period of time. By the actual Thanksgiving holiday, maybe it’ll have sunk down into our hearts deeply enough that we’ll be different people.

It has also been funny watching my friends who didn’t remember to start on Friday and who have been catching up by being double or triply thankful over the weekend. To their credit, I didn’t get started at all, so I will content myself with vicariously participating in their online thankfulness this November.

I am also learning what people are not thankful for. For one thing, I know my young parent friends are not thankful for the return to Standard Time here in most of the U.S., because that’s what they were posting about. (For those uninitiated, falling back one hour, while it used to mean a glorious extra hour of sleep, now means that anyone younger than 4 years old has a good chance of just waking up an hour early, which feels like a particularly bad joke on Mom and Dad.)

On Sunday my pastor kicked off a four-week sermon series on thankfulness. He recounted an experience he’d had in Israel, watching Sabbath fall by the Wailing Wall. Despite the country being in the midst of a particularly volatile stretch, with SCUD missiles being lobbed over the West Bank, faithful Jews were rejoicing with all their hearts. (Check out this clip, where they’re simply anticipating the soon arrival of the Sabbath.) It made him weep. His tour guide’s commentary made him weep more: “They are celebrating. Sometimes it is just good to thank God.”

Sometimes it is just good to thank God. Even when there are missiles flying over your head. 

That gave me pause. It would be awfully strange to see posts where people expressed thankfulness for a huge fight they had with their fiance, the unexpected repair they had to make on their car, or the burglar who broke into their house. We just don’t do that. (Although one woman in my church recently floored me by starting a blog called Thank God for My Cancer.) 

But what if we did do that? What if we spent this November thanking God for the things that hurt? The things we don’t understand? The missiles flying over our heads? 

That’s my challenge to myself: each day to spend a few minutes talking to God and being thankful for something hard or confusing. These are the things that weigh me down. These are the places where I close myself off. So these are the places where I most need His transformational presence. I probably won’t write about them on Facebook — certainly not every day — but I look forward to seeing how God changes me through a new kind of thanksgiving. 

How are you focusing on being grateful this Thanksgiving season?