What is thanksgiving? It is something more than merely saying, ‘Thanks.’ Thanksgiving is a profound response to something that happens very deep within us. Thanksgiving arises from the depths of our souls in response to an overwhelming experience of some kind. It is not given lightly.
Psalm 118 is a perfect example of this. The psalmist is moved by the very mercy of God. It begins with a recognition of that mercy repeating the line, “His mercy endures forever,” four times. The psalmist is recalling an experience of true danger, where he called on the Lord and the Lord answered him and, “set him free.” In the case of the psalmist, this danger was the very real threat of enemy nations that surrounded him on every side. They were “like bees” tormenting him, but he was rescued by the Lord who became “his strength, his might and his savior.” We may not be surrounded by enemies who are threatening us with our very lives, but we know the fear of naked threats against us in a host of other ways. We have known the feeling of being overwhelmed by illnesses, fears, doubts, or other real dangers at one time or another in our lives. We, too, have called on the Lord in our stress, and he has answered us. We have known the incredible relief of knowing that he has answered our prayers, that he has saved us from our “enemy,” whatever that enemy was for us. I think it safe to say that all of us have experienced, at least once in our lives, the overwhelming need to fall to our knees and to shout our thanksgiving to God.
This is all true, but thanksgiving ought to be our constant desire too. We need to learn the habit of always giving thanks to God, for we have many reasons to be thankful. Ought we not rise each morning with a sense of thanksgiving for His kind gift of a new day? Ought we not close our day offering up our thanksgiving for all the good that we experienced during the course of it? Even if we have failed, if we have sinned in some way during the day, we can repent of it before we go to sleep and give thanks to God for his endless, forgiveness and mercy. Even in times of trouble, when things seem to be falling apart all around us, we can learn the habit of thanksgiving, believing that God is with us, that he is giving us the graces we need to endure, to overcome, or to accept our present suffering for, in truth, his love and his mercy are constant toward us. Blessed are we when we can do this. Blessed are we when we put our trust in the Lord. For our Lord never abandons us.
Our thanksgiving is expressed perfectly in today’s verse: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, from the house of the Lord we bless you. The Lord is God and he has made his light shine on us.” Yes, the Lord is always coming to us and making his light shine upon us. Even when we can not “see” it. From the house of the Lord, then, we can say, along with the psalmist: “You are my God, and I will praise you; you are my God, and I will exalt you. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (verses 28-29) Let the people of the house of God, then, shout a joyous thanksgiving to the One who comes in the name of the Lord. To this we add our simple and sincere, “AMEN!”
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