great is thy faithfulness: a reflection on thanksgiving

It seems a little backwards to post this after the holiday, but I’ve been thinking about Thanksgiving lately. Most of these thoughts really started after a sermon that touched on the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, where the Pharisee prays “Thank you that I am not like other people” and the tax collector beats his breast in sorrow and says “Lord have mercy on me, a sinner!” The passage clearly demonstrates that a thankful heart comes from a humble spirit. Thankfulness is not just about the words “thank you”, but about what is going on in my heart and how grateful I am for God’s grace to me. I mean, the Pharisee offered thanks to God and had “good habits” to go alongside his devotion, but his thanks came from the things he had done. The tax collector, in humility, recognized his great failures and sin. Maybe he was just thankful that God would even listen to him. And so our celebration of Thanksgiving should follow that example and reflect our gratefulness that God faithfully listens and cares for us.

It’s easy to lose sight of that, isn’t it? And when now, for a little while (ha) you have had to suffer trials of many kinds, it is easy to feel lost, like you are drowning in pain with little for which to be grateful.

Perhaps for this reason, scripture and Christian history give many examples of God’s goodness and provision, that we may cling to the enduring promises of His love and mercy to us. We see that Jehovah Jireh provides for the needs of his people: with a mighty hand and outstretched arm, Moses leads God’s people out of Egypt; Israelite David slays the Philistine Goliath saying “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty!”; Gideon obediently rescues Israel from the oppression of the Midianites; Complete and final victory over sin and death is in the Messiah, Jesus. And continuing from the New Testament into the present age, Christianity recounts the stories of Stephen, the first Martyr; Augustine of Hippo, turned from a life of promiscuity and philosophy to purity and devotion in leading the church and finalizing the canon of Scripture;  Countless church leaders who instituted the creeds of our faith and guided Christians in the path of orthodox belief; In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we remember the Pilgrims who found their freedom to worship at Plymouth Rock; Elisabeth Elliot ministered to the people who murdered her husband, and they all convert to Christianity! For God’s faithfulness, which extends far beyond our lifespan to the beginning of all time, we are grateful. We have these saints leaving the example of God faithfully guiding and providing for His people. He certainly does the same for us even today. So when it is hard to see what exactly to be thankful for, I look back to these stories and retrain my heart towards gratitude. The faithfulness that we see through all history is the same faithfulness he extends to us.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father
There is no shadow of turning with Thee
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not
As Thou has been, Thou forever will be
Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!

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