It is the day before Thanksgiving. Tomorrow many Americans will gather around tables to enjoy good food and fellowship. A good number of those will give thanks before eating. Some will even take time to let everyone share something for which they are thankful. For at least one day we will be good at giving thanks. Or will we...?
Last night it struck me that being thankful is different than being happy. In our culture, we are professionals at being happy. We know how to express good things when we experience good things. When things are going our way, we are like a party in a bottle of flesh. But that isn't the same as thankfulness. Thankfulness implies an exchange. For instance, most people are thankful when someone does something good for them. But in a culture that largely rejects a personal God, there is a lack of true thankfulness. People are happy when good things happen. But most do not give thanks when good things happen, because they think the events are random, or they think they made the blessings happen themselves.
Most people are happy when the electricity comes back on after a storm, but they aren't as much thankful as they are happy. They are happy because something good happened to them. But they don't see it as a blessing from someone else. It is just what happens after a storm where the electricity goes out. Happiness has largely replaced thankfulness.
Just think about what most people are thankful for versus the things for which they are happy. The list of things they are happy for is much longer than the list of things for which they are thankful. We are a generation that is more in tune with our aggrandizement than gratitude... because we have edged God out of our lives. We don't pray, until things get horrible. We don't petition God for our daily needs and wants. We just go after these things and "make them happen ourselves," hoping the stars will align and we will get what we want. Then when we do get our wish, we were "lucky". This is why Thanksgiving is such an odd holiday anymore. We will drive cars we chose, to sit in houses we earned, to eat food we cooked, and talk with family we just happened to be born into. You cannot disregard God in your culture and retain a healthy sense of thanksgiving.
It is not unusual for a culture that believes in Evolution to drift from thankfulness to happiness. After all, we are all just here by random happenstance, right? Who deserves thanks when everything is the luck of the draw? But the Christian knows better. That's why we are so thankful, We realize that every breath, every blessing is not random, but designed by a God who loves us and desires relationship with us. I have food, and clothing, and housing because God is good. If I earned the money to have these things, even that ability and increase came from Him. So, I am happy, but mostly I am thankful. The Bible tells us...
Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning. By His own choice, He gave us a new birth by the message of truth so that we would be the firstfruits of His creatures. (James 1:17-18)
The gifts in my life have come from a source, so I am not just glad they are here, I have gratitude for this fact. I am not just happy. I am thankful. If someone were to give me a check for $1,000,000.00 , I would be happy. I would also be thankful. I would tell that person, "Thank you." I would also tell God, "Thank you." If I received an envelope with $1,000,000.00, I would be happy. I would also be thankful. I may not know who sent the envelope. So I could not tell them, "Thank you." But I would still tell God, "Thank you." Happiness is our response when we realize that something good happens. Thankfulness is our response when we recognize that someone caused something good to happen. Happiness can be a solitary act, but thanksgiving always involves more than an individual.
Happiness is a gift that is used during an experience. But thankfulness is an exchange. You can be happy all by yourself. But being thankful is a community experience. You can be happy without being thankful. You can be thankful without being happy. But you can't be thankful without being blessed.
Today you will likely experience something that will bring happiness. It's good to be happy. Happiness is good. But it is better when topped with thankfulness. Happiness without thankfulness is like grandma's table without the feast. You can have it on its own, but why would you?
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My name is David, and I want to know God more, and help other people find Him.