I like Thanksgiving. It’s one of my favorite holidays. While some are more meaningful than others, I think holidays in general are intended to make us remember to do something we should be doing in the first place. If I’m being honest, though, I need a reminder to stop and give thanks because sometimes I have trouble being sincerely thankful from my heart.
I especially need the reminder following an Election Day, well, unless everything turns out the way I think it should!
I find giving thanks easy when things are going my way. I’m thankful when I get a raise or a favorable report from the doctor. I find it easy to be content when I’m in a good place, having a good run in life and making the right choices, staying on the straight and narrow road.
Thanksgiving becomes a real challenge when I feel like I have failed or let down everybody I love. I really need the reminder when things aren’t going my way. Finding thankfulness in our hearts during a time of personal failure or great loss can seem almost impossible. Instead of feeling thankful, feelings of self-condemnation and doom seem to prevail. Having a grateful heart during such times almost seems like a violation of our conscience, and giving thanks seems fake and even forced.
I have had the misfortune to have a time in my life when giving thanks was difficult, well actually, impossible, or so I thought. A time when one bad decision resulted in losing my friends, my job and nearly my family. I struggled as my thoughts turned to blaming others, circumstances and yes, even God. It was the most challenging time of my life. I knew that what I was feeling was wrong but felt powerless to do anything about it. I would get up every morning in despair and lay down at night in hopeless confusion.
But one day I found myself watching a young, charismatic, energetic pastor interacting with some parishioners from his church. I remember thinking to myself, “I used to be like that – happy and enthusiastic.” In that moment, I could hear a tender voice inside saying, “Why aren’t you still like that? The same grace he has is available to you.”
At a time when I expected God to be mad at me because of my thoughts and failures, I found Him kind and encouraging instead. I thought my road back to feeling good about myself was going to be long and had to include a generous portion of self-loathing. I wasn’t sure I could ever find normal again, but I simply believed what I heard Him say and things began to change immediately. I’m glad God is still in the miracle business.
I felt something break inside of me. Instead of feeling down, I begin to feel thankfulness rising up in my heart. Thankfulness that I was blessed with a wife who would stick by me no matter what and thankfulness that I had a future to change things for the better. I began to release myself from the condemnation I thought I deserved and began to receive the grace He said was mine. It was truly a supernatural moment.
I learned a valuable lesson that day: Thankfulness isn’t a result of great circumstance but is the result of great grace. Grace has been described as “undeserved favor.” I like that definition. I certainly didn’t deserve any favors, let alone miracles. Amid our circumstances, God just wants us to accept ourselves the way we are and come to Him with an honest heart. When we come to Him as we are, He will never turn us away. Sometimes I think we are reluctant to approach God until we get our act together or straighten ourselves out. We avoid praying and going to church until we can get to a “good place.”
C.S. Lewis once wrote, “There is someone I love, even though I don’t approve of what he does. There is someone I accept, though some of his thoughts and actions revolt me. There is someone I forgive, though he hurts the people I love the most. That person is me.”
True thanksgiving starts within. If we can forgive ourselves and others for shortcomings, extend grace to ourselves and others for weaknesses, and release ourselves and others for the hurts of yesterday... then we can sincerely have thankful hearts.
by Daryl Roach
Daryl grew up in Amarillo and has spent most of his life here. After years of attending and serving in a Southern Baptist church in Amarillo and managing a local sanitary supply company, Daryl started MORE church, an interdenominational charismatic church, in 1999 as a founding pastor. He is currently the senior pastor. Daryl and wife Wendy have been married 31 years. He has four grown children and five grandchildren.