We Christians enter the Thanksgiving season with an opportunity to “choose to give thanks.” Many Americans are driven by their feelings—after all, one of the most common excuses for stepping away from most anything is, “I don’t feel like it!”. People abandon marriage because they don’t feel in love anymore; they refuse to forgive because they don’t feel like forgiving; they choose to step away from important responsibilities because they just don’t feel like continuing to fulfill them.
Jesus’ followers are called by God to move beyond our feelings and make good choices, even if we “don’t feel like it.” Consider how many times Scripture commands a certain action. Recognize that feelings can’t be commanded, so God is certainly not suggesting that we rachet up our emotions until we feel like acting on God’s instructions. Instead, we are called to recognize that feelings, while an important part of our human experience, are not the deciding factor in our life situations; our choices are to supersede our feelings.
The Bible is especially clear about this when it comes to giving God thanks. Consider the following verses:
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (1 Chronicles 16:34)
“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.” (Psalm 100:4)
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” (Colossians 3:15)
“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people.” (1 Timothy 2:1)
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6)
These statements reveal that thanksgiving, while certainly easier when flowing out of feelings of gratitude, does not require those feelings as a source. I trust that all of us might have opportunities this Thanksgiving season to thank God as an emotional overflow of good things experienced. However, even in those times of pain, brokenness, and heartache when you and I cannot find it in our hearts to “feel like” expressing thanks, God’s Spirit calls us to choose to express gratitude for the unshakable, unchanging grace, gifts, and promises He has poured out on us. It is that choice that opens the way for God’s peace to flow into the dark spaces in our lives—as Philippians 4:7 completes the thought begun in verse six quoted above, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
I’ll close with these verses as my heart for all of us in this Thanksgiving season: “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” (Colossians 2:6-7)