By Margaret Rees-Jones
When I think about Thanksgiving and what it means, I am transported to the table of my Grandmother in South Alabama—where breadbaskets bounce down the table between aunties and uncles and are emptied promptly by the wild and the hungry at the kid table. Imagine this: a golden turkey bathed in window light, sweet potatoes with orange rind and brown sugar pecans, cranberry salad, squash casserole.
This is the picture of abundance in my mind, and it is goodness. But when we think about abundance in a Biblical sense, it seems that God intends for us to understand its significance beyond just food, though a turkey can certainly be part of it.
In the Kingdom of God, there is always enough. All over the Bible, we see a Father of radical generosity. We watch things overflow like wine vats and cups and nets of fish. We witness more than 5,000 people being fed with baskets left over. If we are honest with ourselves, this feels too good to be true for our world. And it is! This is to say: God is always doing above and beyond what we can hope for or imagine, and it will nearly always blow our minds.
In John 10:10, the Word says: “The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].”
I am reminded that this fullness is part of the very reason God came—to give us a life that overflows with His presence and goodness! And yet, when we look around, it would seem that we often live in a world of lack. There is hunger. Poverty still exists. So what does the abundant life truly mean?
While the material world is clearly of importance to God, I would challenge us to view this word – “abundance” – as an invitation to a different way of seeing.
Melody Beattie writes:
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
I believe we come by this new way of seeing through the practice of gratitude, of giving thanks, even in the midst of difficult seasons. Perhaps this is why God repeatedly mentions being thankful in His Word.
The scriptures reaffirm the importance of giving thanks in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18:
“Be happy [in your faith] and rejoice and be glad-hearted continually; be unceasing in prayer [praying perseveringly]; Thank [God] in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you [who are] in Christ Jesus [the Revealer and Mediator of that will].”
Not only does God ask us to be thankful, but it is His will for us! When I reflect back on this year and how tough it has been for people all over the world, I have to be honest and admit that it feels unnatural to say thank you while living through a global pandemic. In the midst of my own COVID-19 diagnosis, city shutdowns, missed meals, lost jobs, families separated and quarantined, it is easy to feel disheartened, even ungrateful about the events that have transpired.
This is where our faith in His goodness and sovereignty comes in because we believe that God really does have the whole world in His hands. By knowing the truth of His Word and His character, we trust that He works all things together for our good (Romans 8:28). Living and believing on this side of heaven certainly demands from us the faith of a child!
One of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott, writes that she is “wild with gratitude.” It would seem that gratitude in the face of these difficult times is in fact, “wild”. Yet, God calls us to it, and perhaps, it is for our benefit!
Now, more than ever, I am convinced that the practice of gratitude changes our perspective, brings peace, and reminds us to hope again. I will leave you with these powerful words as we navigate the final months of 2020:
“Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests known to God. And the peace of God [that peace which reassures the heart, that peace] which transcends all understanding, [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus [is yours].” -Philippians 4:6-7