Thanksgiving is upon us! For Americans that means a harvest celebration. A time to join together with the people we love and proclaim our gratitude to the one who gave us all that we have received this year.
Many years ago Thanksgiving was a time to harvest crops and to give thanks for them. Now that we buy our food at the grocery store few of us see a literal harvest. But we can still take time to reflect on our past year and the figurative harvest in our lives.
I hope that your harvest has been fruitful; that you have made new friends, learned new truths about the world and grown in mind, spirit, and strength. But there’s a good chance that your year’s harvest has not been as fruitful as you would have liked it to be.
Perhaps you have struggled to become friends with the Americans you’ve met. Maybe you are having a hard time communicating in a new language and culture. Or maybe the daily battles of life have drained you.
But this is exactly why gratitude is so important to celebrate! It means that our attitude is not determined by luck, circumstance, or the choices of others. A man in the Bible called Paul was arrested in ancient Rome for preaching about Christ. As he sat in his prison cell he wrote:
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13
Paul’s attitude was not defined by his circumstances but was rooted in his trust that the Lord is sovereign and sufficient. Paul knew that God had given him a great purpose for his life and that God had forgiven him even though he did not deserve it. (Before Paul believed in Christ he persecuted and even killed Christians.) Paul could not help but be grateful to God for his life and all the good He had done in and through him.
While most of us have not killed anyone, we still, like Paul need the forgiveness of a Savior. This forgiveness brings a whole new perspective to our hearts and minds. With gratitude, we can trade despair for hope, blame for forgiveness and fear for peace.
Even if you don’t believe in God you too can practice gratitude for the gifts in your life. No matter what circumstances you are facing right now, I encourage you to write a list of everything you are thankful for. Get a group of classmates, acquaintances, friends or family together to do the same. Then share a meal together, whether it be snacks, take out, a fancy restaurant, potluck, or a five-course home cooked meal. While you eat, share with each other what you are thankful for and celebrate the harvest you have been given.
If you want to know more about how you can experience the forgiveness Paul is so grateful for check out: How to Know God Personally.