Thanksgiving is the primary day of the year for Americans to highlight the importance of taking a moment to be grateful for the many blessings we have experienced. Such a day is important because our culture often pushes us to feel disappointed about the many things we have not received or achieved. I love Thanksgiving and what it represents. But perhaps it should inspire us to take an even bigger approach to life?
Paul the Apostle writes in 1 Timothy 6:6-8:
True godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. (New Living Translation NLT)
In light of Paul's admonishment, perhaps we should consider the following question, "Is it enough to set aside one day to be thankful each year or should I be aiming for a life of contentment?"
Now one may wonder how it is possible to achieve a life of contentment. I think Paul gives us a clue in Philippians 4:11-13:
Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. (NLT)
The hint that Paul provides us here is twofold.
Contentment is something we gain as we call on God to give us strength.
We are most able to acquire contentment through experiences that force us to lean into it. In other words, our goal should not be to always have a full stomach. Having little is just as helpful in learning to be content as having plenty. Indeed, experiencing hard things may be the best way to obtain contentment in our lives.
So celebrate Thanksgiving. Enjoy the holidays; there is no shame in that. But don't despise your difficult days. For if we respond to our days of emptiness with a deep dependence on God, we are on our way to acquiring a life of contentment, which is of much greater value than a day of thanksgiving.