“Thanks What?” – Devotional with Chaplain Smith

Chaplain Smith HeadshotChaplain Shelby Smith served at a local church for 19 years before joining Arkansas Heart Hospital. Here, he has the opportunity to meet the spiritual needs of patients, their families and our staff. In addition to offering prayer and encouragement, Chaplain Shelby Smith shares a weekly devotional. 

We’ve entered my favorite time of year – the festive holiday season. For the next two months, we will be in a frenzy of buying and eating, though not necessarily in that order.  

I was thinking about Thanksgiving and wondered how many of us ever really think about the word “Thanksgiving” and what it really means?  

It’s a compound word of “thanks” and “giving.” “Thanks” is an expression of kind or grateful thoughts, gratitude or appreciation. “Giving” is defined as freely transferring the possession of something to someone, or to hand over. It goes on to be defined as to freely devote, set aside or sacrifice for a purpose.  

Given the definitions of the individual words, examine for a moment your rituals, activities and thoughts of the past related to this holiday. During the Thanksgiving season, what is your focus? Is it on your desire to have a grand feast? What happens if one of your favorite dishes is not presented? How do you respond when the turkey is burned or undercooked? What is your reaction to the aunt or uncle or cousin who comes to the gathering uninvited, or the relative that wants to talk too much during the game? 

In all the preparations, gatherings and disappointments, we can sometimes lose sight of what this holiday can really become. Oh, I know the stories surrounding how Thanksgiving came about and the stories about the pilgrims, Indians and turkey. But, when you step back, what does Thanksgiving really mean to you? 

For the past couple of years, Thanksgiving has looked quite different for many of us. The pandemic has changed how we gather and what we do when we get together. Some have experienced loss of loved ones. Others have experienced gain as they look back and assess what is really important. Now for the introverts, it has been heaven, but for the extraverts and huggers, well, it has been…the other place.  

We read God’s word in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances: for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 

To look at that again, it said to give thanks in all circumstances. You may ask: “you mean be thankful for the burned turkey? No, be thankful you had a turkey to burn. “You mean be thankful even though I lost a loved one to COVID this year?” Yes, be thankful for the time you had with them and memories of them that you still have. You may have a child, mother or spouse that is suffering from cancer and not expected to live much longer. Are you to be thankful even in this? While you are not thankful they are ill, you can be thankful for the time you have with them; for how God will use you to provide comfort and care for them; and how He will reveal himself through your “thanks-giving.” 

Hard things in life happen to us all. During this season of Thanksgiving, I challenge you to think about what would be most important to you if this were your last Thanksgiving, or the last for someone you love. What would you do differently this season? You see, we never really know just how much time we have left. 

This season, will you be the expression of kind and grateful thoughts? Will people around you feel your gratitude and appreciation? Will you freely devote yourself to sacrificially giving while investing yourself in others? Or is your Thanksgiving more about getting everything just right… just about you and your wants? That’s not really thanksgiving. That sounds like “thanks-getting.” Hmmm…something to think about.  

May God be glorified through you this Thanksgiving season.