How is it that Thanksgiving can be one of the hardest times to be thankful?
It’s my favorite time of year. I get to sit in tree stands, fill my freezer, and be in the hunting mindset more than any other time of year. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I have completely missed the joy of so many Thanksgiving holidays. Even when years have been cringingly difficult, there have been things that I could have easily said, “You know, this really was a blessing.”
It might have been some challenge that was overcome, or even a season of suffering that taught priceless lessons. The jewel was found in what remembering God’s faithful work did for my spirit. Only recently have I begun to understand the value of reflecting on the previous year in order to orient my thoughts and cultivate a thankful heart.
Reflection is Powerful
Taking a pause to reflect on our blessings this time of year can help us set the tone for the year to come.
Jesus perfectly understood the truest value of taking a moment to pray as we see multiple examples throughout scripture of him withdrawing to a desolate place. When we pray, as he has taught us (Luke 11:2-4), we remind ourselves of God’s faithfulness, his power,his provision, his love, and so many other things. That’s reflection.
Michael Hyatt calls reflection a “discipline of the heart”. What is the purpose of discipline? It’s transforming something that is untamed and unpredictable into something that is powerful and useful. Reflection on God’s nature and His blessings trains our hearts and minds that are so easily distracted and unpredictable and aligns them with the thoughts and will of God. When this happens, the fog of all the neediness and negativity we so often dwell on dissipates.
“We would worry less if we praised more. Thanksgiving is the enemy of discontent and dissatisfaction.”
Stop and Focus
In our culture, distractions are glorified. People seem to brag about how much time they spend aimlessly scrolling on their favorite social media app. It’s no wonder we fail to be able to reflect and cultivate thankfulness when all that we seem to be exposed to is marketing strategies and things we don’t have already. If you really want to be thankful for the ways God has blessed you, rather than having the world demand of you externally, you need to sit down and demand of yourself internally. Sometimes we have to preach to ourselves in order to draw out that thankfulness. In order to do that, you have to put yourself in an atmosphere that promotes reflection. I do a lot of my reflection when I’m on a tractor at work, while I’m in my taxidermy shop, or even in the quiet moments of the morning before my family gets up. Making a point to create a focused moment to consider all that God has done in your life is a must.
Consider Lasting Outcomes, Not Temporary Circumstances.
I call them “yeah buts”. You have experienced them. Maybe you’ve been one. I have. They are the circumstantial Debbie Downer’s of every outcome. Temporary circumstances can overshadow priceless outcomes if we let them. God’s faithfulness to us is shown in many ways, but one of the most beautiful is how he sees an entire situation from beginning to end, and uses each variable to an outcome that is for His glory. Thankfulness through reflection will burst forth if we will do our best to consider the outcomes of the circumstances God brings us through, rather than the circumstances themselves.
Give Credit Where Credit is Due
The power of Psalm 29:2 is staggering. “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.” God is the one who sees us through so much, blesses us in so many ways, and preserves us to the end. As we reflect on all the blessings of the year, we glorify God as we express our satisfaction in Him. Sharing what we are thankful for with others and praising God is the right response to his action in our lives. We have to let that out. It’s goes against the nature of a plant to keep its fruit from producing. John Piper said, “Thankfulness with the mouth stirs up thankfulness in the heart.” It goes against the nature of a Christian to try to stifle God’s glory in praise and worship.
Cultivating a truly thankful heart can be a perilous battle. Thankfulness is a daily quality that preserves our joy and glorifies God well through His people.