How Thanksgiving Recalls God's Faithfulness and Corrects Our Actions
You turn the pages in your calendar, wondering how another year has passed so quickly. As your eyes glance at the pages of November and December, holiday parties, appointments, school programs, and travel plans occupy your schedule. It’s easy to lose yourself in the chaos of the holiday season and, in turn, forget the actual purpose and significance of the holidays you’re celebrating. Thanksgiving is more than time with family, good football games, an abundance of food, and a head start on your Christmas shopping (although all of those are good, fun things). As we approach Thanksgiving, I encourage you to take a moment and remember three reasons why Thanksgiving is so important for followers of Jesus Christ: it reminds us to reflect on God’s past and present faithfulness; anticipates God’s future faithfulness; and adjusts the posture of our hearts, minds, and actions.
Thanksgiving Reminds us to Reflect on God’s Past and Present Faithfulness
When Moses ascended Mount Sinai to receive a second set of the Ten Commandments, God graciously descended upon the mountain and revealed His name and character to Moses, saying, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex. 34:6, ESV). This revelation of God’s name and character is a significant theme throughout the remainder of the Old Testament, reminding Israel of God’s gracious, faithful disposition towards them. In Leviticus, the Thank Offering is instituted as an opportunity for the Israelites to freely bring an offering before God as an act of gratitude and worship, remembering God’s faithfulness to them (Lev. 7:11-17, 19:5; 2 Chron. 29:31-36; Ps. 50:14). In Psalm 78, we read a 72-verse account of God’s ongoing faithfulness to His people, despite their unfaithfulness to the covenant (Ps. 78:9-11), rebellion (Ps. 78:17-20), and failure to trust in God’s saving power (Ps. 78:22). Despite Israel’s unfaithfulness, God remained faithful to sustain and preserve them, and even granted them a king (Ps. 78:67-72).
As contemporary readers, we can look at the covenant history of God’s people in Scripture and consider how God has been faithful to us throughout our lives! What are the big and little ways God has demonstrated His faithfulness – His trustworthiness and constancy – throughout your life? Throughout the past year, month, or week? Has God financially provided when you were in a time of need, healed your child from a severe illness, or provided an opportunity to reconcile a broken relationship? Just as God was faithful to Israel, He has been faithful to you, even when you can’t fully see or comprehend the depths of His faithfulness.
Thanksgiving Anticipates God’s Future Faithfulness
If you read the entirety of the Bible, you’ll notice that God’s promise to “abound in steadfast love and faithfulness” to Israel (Ex. 34:6, ESV) wasn’t temporary - it was an eternal promise. The same God that made that promise to Israel makes that promise to you, granting you a sure hope as you anticipate God’s future faithfulness. Several portions of Scripture remind us of God’s ongoing faithfulness to His children, including 2 Thessalonians 3:3, Lamentations 3:22-23, Hebrews 13:8, and 1 John 1:9. In 2 Thessalonians 3:3, the apostle Paul writes, “But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one”. If you are a child of God, you can trust in God’s faithfulness to protect you from the evil one and those who seek to destroy your faith and confidence in Him. Lamentations 3:22-23 reminds us, “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness”. This text reminds us that each day offers us another opportunity to experience God’s grace, compassion, and forgiveness for those who repent. Hebrews 13:8 declares, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever”. In a world that is continually changing, this verse is a comforting reminder of the unchanging nature and character of Jesus. When we are faithless, He is faithful. When we are weak, He is strong. When we are defenseless, He is our defender. Furthermore, 1 John 1:9 reminds us of God’s gracious hand of forgiveness that extends to the repentant: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. God welcomes our repentance and is faithful to forgive us, reminding us that His unchanging nature extends even to the forgiveness He offers to us.
Dear friend, as you anticipate God’s continued faithfulness to you this Thanksgiving, I encourage you to take hold of these precious promises. Our unchanging God promises to guard you against evil, grant you His grace and compassion, and forgive your sins. No matter what happens to you in the next day, week, month, or year, remember that God will not stop being reliable, trustworthy, and faithful to you, His child.
Thanksgiving Corrects Our Hearts, Minds, and Actions
Celebrating Thanksgiving is often a humbling reminder (to me, at least!) of how badly I fail to live gratefully before God and others. Thanksgiving serves as a reminder to consider and adjust our posture before God in our hearts, minds, and actions.
Psalms 95 and 100 remind us of the posture we should have as we enter worship: “Come into His presence with thanksgiving” (Ps. 95:2) and “give thanks to Him; bless His name” (Ps. 100:4). Because of all that God has done for us in the past, continues to do in the present, and promises to do in the future, God calls us to enter His presence with thanksgiving! This not only applies in worship services at church but in our daily lives as well. Not every day or season in life is easy or pain-free, and it often feels difficult to have a posture of gratitude before God. If that’s your season, that’s okay! Come before God with your lament, tears, questions, and frustrations, and thank Him for hearing them with love and compassion.
Similarly, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 reminds us, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you”. Each year’s celebration of Thanksgiving reminds me how often I’ve failed to rejoice in my circumstances, pray consistently, and give thanks in everything. Far more often, I complain because my circumstances don’t fit my ideal picture of what I want my life to look like. I fail to pray without ceasing, making excuses for my lackluster prayer life. I fail to give thanks to God in all circumstances, and instead only thank Him when my circumstances make me happy or joyful.
This Thanksgiving, take time to reflect on how God might be calling you to adjust your actions to better reflect your gratitude to Him for His goodness to you.
As you celebrate this Thanksgiving, take time to reflect on and thank God for His past and present faithfulness to you! And as you look to the future, thank God that He is unchanging, faithful to guard you against evil, and graciously forgives your sin.
|Leah Jolly is a graduate of Wheaton College where she studied international relations and Spanish. She lives in the Grand Rapids area with her husband, Logan, and is pursuing her MDiv at Calvin Theological Seminary. She attends Harvest OPC in Wyoming, Michigan. For more of Leah's content, you can find her on Substack and Instagram.|