There’s something odd about scheduling an annual holiday around the concept of gratitude. Every year the event is both the same and different. You know the day is a Thursday, at the end of November. You can probably list off exactly what’s going to be served for dinner, and might even be able to predict conversations between family members with uncanny accuracy.

But each year brings something new as well. New family members and missing family members, different economic positions, unique world-event situations, and that unforgiving march of time as you grow older and wiser every year. So how do we confront the reason for the holiday in a way that honors both the intent and our reality?

I’ve been leaping around Psalms recently (always a good place to wander) and stumbled on Psalm 136. There’s several sections to it. First, praise to God for who he is, God as creator, God as rescuer, and finally God as personal savior. We don’t know who actually wrote it, but according to scholars it was a favorite hymn sung by the people. It’s got a catchy chorus too, which always helps.

This psalm has some great ideas on how we can structure our thoughts on gratitude in a way that focuses on eternal truths while acknowledging the present situation.

Thankful for a Good King

Every so often, I jokingly state that things would be different if I ruled the world. But I’m actually so, so thankful that I’m not in charge. God is there to lead and control that which you and I cannot and have no ability to. And he is good. The very definition of good. We couldn’t ask for any better position to be in.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever.

Thankful for His Provision

All things come from God: the trees, the birds, what you eat for dinner, the talents you have, and even your new iPhone. If it is, it came from him. Let’s remember to thank God for all his gifts, those that are new and old.

to him who alone does great wonders,
His love endures forever.
who by his understanding made the heavens,
His love endures forever.
who spread out the earth upon the waters,
His love endures forever.

Thankful for His Guardianship

Our God isn’t a king who stays inside his castle. He is actively out pursuing us and fighting for us. He led the Israelites out of Egypt, he led the disciples as they spread the message of Christ around the world, and he leads you and me today. Even if we feel far from him, or can’t see him in a situation, he’s there all the same. Preparing the way for us and revealing his perfect plans.

to him who led his people through the wilderness;
His love endures forever.
to him who struck down great kings,
His love endures forever.
and gave their land as an inheritance,
His love endures forever.

Thankful for His Love

And just when you’re overwhelmed by his power and might, God reminds us that he’s our heavenly father. He cares for us when we’re down and out. He considers our enemies his enemies. He thinks about the little but important daily things we need to live. He loves us more than we could ever comprehend.

He remembered us in our low estate
His love endures forever.
and freed us from our enemies.
His love endures forever.
He gives food to every creature.
His love endures forever.

As we gather with friends and family later this month, we’ll inevitably find ourselves faced with the usual question of “What are you thankful for?” Perhaps this year you can find a more eternally focused answer. One you can hold onto regardless of how burned the turkey is or the obtuseness of your great uncle’s political tirade. As Paul so succinctly writes at the end of 1 Thessalonians: Give thanks in all circumstances. It’s so much easier to give thanks when we keep our eyes on the Lord.

What has God done in your life this year that you are thankful for?

Megan Stevens

Megan Stevens is embracing her recent move to the South, enjoying the hospitality of Northern Alabama with her husband, 3 year old daughter and soon-to-arrive baby. Megan is passionate about community, celebration and life around the table.

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