How to Be Thankful When Life’s Not a Fairytale

Fairy Princess

A few Novembers ago, Pastor Lon preached a sermon entitled “Biblical Thanksgiving is NOT a Feeling.”  I remember being profoundly impacted by this message, and have listened to it multiple times since then. The truth that he preached was this: If there is a sovereign omnipotent personal God, and if He is in total control of His universe, and if He has a perfect plan for my life, and if He allows every circumstance to touch my life to work towards achieving this good and a beneficial plan; then there isn’t a single circumstance in our lives about which we should not be able to give thanks.

There isn’t a single circumstance in our lives about which we should not be able to give thanks.

However, as a millennial, I’ve grown up in the world that has told me that all of my decisions should be based on my feelings, following my heart, and what brings about the most happiness for me. Once you start to realize you’re not a Disney princess, the emptiness and destructiveness of that mindset becomes evident pretty quick.

But we’re all sinners and selfish at heart, so even as committed disciples, that mentality can creep into our thoughts and actions. That’s why we have to constantly ask God to examine our heart and study His word so that our gratitude, peace, love, joy, and other fruits of the spirit, are not based on our feelings, but rather rooted in the promises of God.

Is this a counter-cultural message, even to cultural Christianity? Yes. But God has given us the Bible to study and delight in, so that our lives are transformed by the Scriptures and not conformed to the narcissism of our world. In Psalm 119, the psalmist extols his love for God’s law, describing it as more precious to him than thousands of pieces of silver and gold, and as a lamp to his feet and a light to his path. His joy makes me wonder, “Do I have this mindset each and every day when I approach the Lord’s commands?” Or am I ignoring the cost of discipleship and settling for the “me” centered world, in which a thankful heart is only based on my external circumstances.

When my heart and mind are transformed by God’s truth, then biblical thanksgiving becomes a way of life. Francis Chan reminds us in Multiply that studying the Bible is not about using it to justify our lifestyle or to selectively apply, but rather to know the heart of God and let him “change and redefine who we are” and our thinking. When I study the Bible—prayerfully and obediently—then my soul is consumed with longing for God’s law at all times. My life becomes less about me and more about the One I follow. My heart is full of joy and thanksgiving as I take up my cross each day as a disciple.

This Thanksgiving, let’s mediate on 1 Thessalonians 5:18, in which Paul instructs his fellow believers to “give thanks in all circumstances, because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” And let’s be thankful for God’s Word with a heart like this: “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103). May we crave God’s Word and teachings each and every day even more than the turkey and pumpkin pie this Thursday!

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