Thanksgiving is drawing near and for many finding reasons to be thankful can be a bit challenging. In fact, trying to come up with just one noteworthy circumstance or event can even be a chore. It doesn’t help that many of us are feeling a loss of the initial heart and zeal that once shaped our spiritual lives. How do we manage when the passion that was constant and fervent becomes fleeting and flat…let alone be thankful? I’m not referring to the normal ebb and flow that is a natural part of the Christian walk but rather the darkened season of faltering and discouraged hope that actually hinders a person’s activity of faith. Prayers become sparse, meditation becomes muddled, service becomes rote, and nothing seems to motivate or move the heart as it did before.
Is this even normal in the Christian life?
Not only is this normal, but many seasoned saints have systematically struggled with dark nights of the soul. Martin Luther for instance reeled on the ground in agonizing prayer over his darkness of the soul. Charles Spurgeon struggled with stomach ailments due to his spiritual discouragement. John the Baptist wondered if Christ really was the Messiah because of misconstrued expectations.
We shouldn’t be surprised, life has always been difficult, and we are told that troublesome conditions will increase like birth pangs. The facts of our fallen world are apparent. Divorce rates continue to sky rocket, depression is paramount, health issues and death are inevitable, and suicide rates are ever increasing. Brokenness and sin naturally bring us to this weakened place, and it will continue with us until the return of Christ. There is, however, an indisputable fountain of hope should we find the spirit within us in desperate need of renewal. The confidence that we long for is embedded in “remembrance.” Yes, remembering the effects of Gods grace already in progress on our lives.
Going deeper with thanksgiving
The dictionary describes thankfulness as an expression of gratitude. In the original language the scripture translates thankfulness as “being mindful of God’s favor.” The Old Testament word for thankfulness “yadah” conveys a throwing down or casting down of praise. In difficult times it’s the exercise of remembrance that produces a yadah of the heart. It is looking back on our lives and remembering our blessings one by one, starting with God’s unconditional love. What we’ll discover is that all of our blessings are dependent on His power and not our own. In fact, it’s not about our accomplishments at all. Something paradigm shattering happens when we focus on God’s ability and grasp the divine reality that he is able to do all things — regardless of us. His capacity is limitless and never varies. Even if the world should spin out of control, his hold on our lives remains securely in place.
What a marvel to realize our fickleness, lack of capability and darkened seasons of the soul won’t change the purposes of God for our lives. You see, God is immutable, which means his ability never changes despite our ups and downs. We are frail and forever changing creatures; our faith is strong one minute and instantly weak the next. Yet, God’s promise stands true and never depends on us. “…He chose us in him before the foundation of the world…” (Ephesians 1:4) This is a power that is beyond us, something we can throw down expressions of praise on!
A banquet table of recollection
Remembering the power of God and being thankful for the effect of that power stirs the heart. For instance reflect on the glorious power that opened our blind and darkened eyes and gave the gift of spiritual sight. Reminisce about the power of forgiveness, which produced comfort and liberation to the soul. Recall the power of intercession and the gift of an answered prayer. Remind yourself of God’s power over death and the blessing of victory beyond the grave. Is there one person in whose life you have witnessed this indisputable power and it’s inevitable outcome?
A spiritual table setting
As we come together with our families for Thanksgiving, we may be tempted to focus on preparations and festivities trying to refuel our famished souls with holiday cheer, food and a list of superficial thank-you’s. But when the day is over, we may still find ourselves languishing spiritually with little hope of refreshment to our hearts. Broken families and dreams are inevitable house guests during this season. What we need more than anything is to feast with our hearts at the banquet table of remembrance in divine works far beyond our own abilities. Positioning Jesus as the guest of honor at this buffet of spiritual recollection has the power to produce a sacred “yadah” to the wearied soul.
Won’t you purpose to dine at this table in your heart? Eat and be strengthened by the same bread of exhortation sent to John the Baptist by Jesus Himself: “Go tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them” (Luke 7:22). We need no longer despair. He that brings power to the powerless and fruitfulness to the barren is near. Therefore let us ask for a fresh breath of divine remembrance of God’s power that we may have the product of a thankful heart this Thanksgiving.
Paula Masters is the author of “Exceptional Bloom: Coming Alive After Fifty” and the founder of True Source Ministries, an online ministry to hurting women, found at tsmwomen.org. She stays connected with her readers on her “Over Fifty And Fabulous” facebook page and online at OverFiftyandFab.com.