“Thankful” Devotional with Chaplain Shelby Smith

Chaplain Smith / Debbie McDaniel

What does the Thanksgiving holiday reveal to you about yourself? Do you live a life of thankfulness? Or is it and emotion or mindset you dust off each year around this time?

Writer Debbie McDaniel said, “I believe that thankfulness is a barometer of our level of Faith. I believe that thanksgiving or the giving of thanks is the expression of Faith. In fact, it may be the highest expression of Faith.”

I tend to agree with her statement. During my years as a missionary, I visited countries where people were living on a tiny fraction of the income of the poorest family in this country. They were hard-working, hopeful and faithful. That faith manifested itself through thankfulness and joy, which was not rooted in their present circumstances but in their Faith in God and a knowledge that He recognized their plight. It was as if they trusted that even if God did not change their circumstances here, they were still better off believing. They believed His word in Psalm 68:19, “Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.” Another translation reads, “Praise be to the Lord who daily loads us with benefits.” They had an understanding that not all of God’s benefits were in the form of financial gain or relief.

Unfortunately, I don’t always notice that widespread thankfulness here in what I would term the “Land of Plenty.” Now I know there are people who are poor and struggling and are having a difficult time making ends meet here in our country. There are people that come to us daily that are facing life-changing decisions concerning their health. There are those on our staff that are struggling with marriage issues, loss of a spouse or a child, the repercussions of past or present mistakes and some even facing a financial meltdown. If one of these conditions describes your plight, how are you facing it? With Faith expressed in thankfulness or complaining, blaming and ungratefulness? Remember those in the third world countries are facing those same problems with far fewer resources to rectify those issues. But with an amazing display of Faith, they find ways to be thankful.

Psalm 107:1 reads, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good and his love endures forever.” Sometimes it is really a sacrifice to offer praise and thanks. There are times when we may not feel like it. We’re struggling. We’re weary. Or maybe, we feel like God has let us down.

Let me ask you, do you measure God’s blessings by the barometer of health, wealth and happiness only? Do you measure God’s faithfulness to you by what someone else has? If so, be careful. In looking at life that way, you can always find someone who is doing better. If you are not careful, a spirit of ungratefulness can sneak in, and you become filled with bitterness, fear, negativity, selfishness and self-pity. These are some of the Devil’s favorite tools for taking you down.

This season is not always happy for everyone. For some this season serves only as a reminder of what they have lost, and it is difficult to get through the loneliness and pain. We must face those difficulties with the knowledge that God is still good even when he does not give us what we want. You might also get through this season by reaching out to someone who is really struggling and ask God to use you to encourage them.

I have found that, getting up each day and thanking God for the little things gets me off to a good start. I thank him for my wife, my children, my family, saneness(though some may question this), the sunny day or the rainy day. Simple things that for the most part are not owned or directed by me. I try to name at least five or six little things each morning that I am thankful for and throughout the day I try to add to the list. We have a choice, every day, to give Him thanks.

With a heart of thanksgiving, we realize that no matter what we face, God doesn’t just work to change our situations and help us through our problems. He does more. He changes our hearts. His power, through hearts of gratitude and focused minds on Him, releases the grip our struggles have over us. This allows us to live thankfully. If nothing else, Thanksgiving reminds me to be thankful for the things that money cannot buy which keeps me from being controlled by the things that money can buy. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 instructs us to “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances for this is Gods will for you in Christ.”