by Christine Sine
Letter cutouts spell "Thankful" surrounded by fall themed paper cutouts

by Carol Dixon

When I was a teenager in 1964 a pop song by Petula Clark soared into the charts in the UK. Although it had slightly different words, the original was a translation of a hymn by a German theologian written in the early 20th century. It was called Thank You For Giving Me the Morning. Maybe some of you remember it.

As my American friends are caught up in the hustle and bustle towards Thanksgiving day I have been thinking quite a bit about being thankful. In the UK we don’t usually celebrate Thanksgiving Day so I don’t really feel qualified to say much about it. But the need for thanksgiving in all our lives is really important which is one of the reasons I have been so encouraged by many of our Godspacelight themes recently.  We seem to have been focusing on giving thanks from harvest time, celebrated at the end of September, right through to Thanksgiving day on 24 November (after which we will be looking forward to Advent – another uplifting theme). I loved the post a few weeks ago that was the invitation to ponder daily on at least one thing to thank God for as advised by Meister Eckhart: 

If the only prayer you pray in your entire life is Thank you God, that would suffice. Thankfulness is one of the most life-giving thoughts we can have. Let us determine to start each day with positive affirmation such as Thank you God for the gift of life and end the day with thanksgiving for just one positive thing the day has brought us.

Sometimes in our lives when everything seems to be against us it is difficult to be thankful, but if we manage to do so our lives will be transformed. This has nothing to do with pretending everything in the garden is rosy when it isn’t, or not being honest with God about how we really feel, but trying to focus on one gift the day has brought, however small.

The Bible has quite a lot to say about thankfulness and one of my favourite passages is from the book of Habakkuk where the prophet confronts God about the state of the world he is living in. Habakkuk was a contemporary of Jeremiah and lived in uncertain times with wars, food shortages, and people in power who didn’t seem to care. Sound familiar? God’s people were divided and those in the Northern Kingdom of Israel had been overrun by the Assyrian army. The kingdom of Judah where Habakkuk lived was also threatened by the Babylonians who were about to capture Jerusalem and take many of the key citizens off to slavery in exile. But instead of turning away from God, as many of his contemporaries had, Habakkuk confronted God with a series of questions. He didn’t get the answers he might have hoped for but as he listened to God’s overview of the situation he began to see the wider picture. And so, he was able to sing his song of thankfulness and praise despite his current difficulties and turned from despair to hope. Here is a precis of their discussion.

Habakkuk Complains of Injustice

O Lord, how long must I call for help before you listen, before you save us? Why do you make me see such trouble? How can you stand to look on such wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are all around me, and there is fighting and quarrelling everywhere. The law is weak and useless, and justice is never done. Evil people get the better of the righteous, and so justice is perverted.

The Lord’s Reply

Keep watching the nations around you, and you will be astonished at what you see. I am going to do something that you will not believe when you hear about it. I am bringing the Babylonians to power, those fierce, restless people. They are marching out across the world to conquer other lands. They spread fear and terror, and in their pride they are a law to themselves…“Their armies advance in violent conquest, and everyone is terrified as they approach…They treat kings with contempt and laugh at high officials. No fortress can stop them— 11 they sweep on like the wind and are gone, these men whose power is their god.

Habakkuk Complains to the Lord Again

12 Lord, from the very beginning YOU are God. You are my God, holy and eternal. My God and protector, you have chosen the Babylonians and made them strong so that they can punish us. 13 But how can you stand these treacherous, evil men? Your eyes are too holy to look at evil, and you cannot stand the sight of people doing wrong. So why are you silent while they destroy people who are more righteous than they are?

The Lord’s Answer to Habakkuk

The Lord replied: 4‘Those who are evil will not survive, but those who are righteous will live because they are faithful to God.’”…7But before you know it, you that have conquered others will be in debt yourselves and be forced to pay interest. Enemies will come and make you tremble. They will plunder you! 8 You have plundered the people of many nations, but now those who have survived will plunder you because of the murders you have committed and because of your violence against the people of the world and its cities.[c]

9 You are doomed!

Habakkuk finally got the picture and ended the conversation by saying:

‘I will wait in thankfulness and hope for the time to come when God will vindicate his people.

He even burst into song:

17Even though the fig trees have no fruitand no grapes grow on the vines, even though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no grain… 18I will still be joyful and glad, because the Lord God is my savior.

and he goes on to say

9‘The Sovereign Lord gives me strength. He makes me sure-footed as a deer and keep-s me safe on the mountains.’

One of the great assets we have as Christians is that in Jesus we can learn to give thanks however we are feeling. One of my favourite hymns in our church hymn book is  ‘Give to Me Lord a Thankful Heart’. 

A prayer for Thanksgiving day

May God give you – for every storm, a rainbow. 

For every tear a smile, for every care a promise, 

and a blessing in each trial. 

For every problem life sends, a faithful friend to share, 

for every sigh a song, and an answer to each prayer. [Author unknown]

A Celtic Blessing (traditional) 

When days are dark, 

may the blessing of light be on you,

 light without and light within. 

When the world is cold,

 may the blessed sunshine shine upon you 

and warm your heart, 

till it glows like a great peat fire. 

And the blessing of God, three in one, 

rest on you and remain with you forever. Amen.

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