Eyes Fixed on the Goodness of God

Greetings, Friends. We have just finished an 8-week study of First Thessalonians, which Jamie Harms led us through beautifully in conjunction with UFC’s discipleship series. What a great fall season it has been as we had weekly touchpoints and teachings on Thursdays (some in person and some on Zoom) and then spent quiet moments alone throughout the week reading, studying, and responding to what Paul was conveying to those in Thessalonica. 

With Thanksgiving just a few days away, we are touched that you are taking a few precious minutes to pause in the busyness of the preparations to be with us. You can expect a quiet week here on the blog as we pause with our families for Thanksgiving and ready this site for a special Christmastime series that begins Sunday, November 28, the first day of the advent season. 

With stories of key men and women in Jesus’ family line, we will trace a scarlet cord of hope from creation to the creche. We will tell of a great love story of a personal God, of One who made a way for His sin-stained children to be rescued and restored to Himself. Alongside these written and audio narratives, we will post daily readings from God’s Word, for as Romans 15:4 tells us:

Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

By Jaime Sherman

The celebration of Thanksgiving has been part of my yearly rhythm since I was just a few weeks old, so I don’t remember a specific starting date. I also don’t remember when I first learned to say “thank you” for kindness shown to me or to thank God in prayer for food, family, and fun. But I do remember with clarity when the act of giving thanks became a sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:15) before my Lord in both seasons of joy and of sorrow.

Listen to a reading of today’s post.

It was just a month shy of 10 years ago in the days between Christmas and New Year’s when I started reading a New York Time’s best seller that was all the rage. I had resisted purchasing the book, figuring anything that popular wouldn’t have much meat, but when my sister-in-law gave it to me for Christmas, I figured I’d take a peek. Within a few pages, I was drawn into the account of a woman’s journey to record 1,000 blessings in her life. Through the daily exercise, she learned to give thanks to God for both the good and the hard things she faced, which had been many since she was a little girl. I could relate to pieces of her story, especially of long days of depression and daily struggles in motherhood when the mind fixed on what seemed like curses instead of blessings.

I was captured by the author’s writing style, the raw honesty of her words, and her simple language lesson on the Greek word eucharisteó (yoo-khar-is-teh’-o). The apostle Paul uses this word in the often-quoted and troublesome section of I Thessalonians 5:16-18. He instructs the believers with what can feel impossible:

Rejoice always.
Pray without ceasing.
And give thanks
in all circumstances
for this is the will of God
in Christ Jesus for you. 

Give thanks. Eucharisteó. This word — this command — is built off the root word charis, meaning grace, and inside that word is chara, meaning joy.

Biblical thanksgiving precedes joy and isn’t just about the good, happy things in life. Real thanksgiving chooses to say in all circumstances: “Lord, this thing in my life right now is hard. I don’t like it. I am far from happy about it and am inclined to throw a tantrum about it. But I am choosing right now to thank you for it because You are always good and are using this situation for Your glory and my good. May Your joy run deep in me even in the hard things. I love You, Lord.”

Thanksgiving keeps our eyes on what is true about God. From Psalm 111 we read:

Praise the Lord!
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart,
    in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
Great are the works of the Lord,
    studied by all who delight in them.
Full of splendor and majesty is his work,
    and his righteousness endures forever.
He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered;
    the Lord is gracious and merciful.
He provides food for those who fear him;
    he remembers his covenant forever.
He has shown his people the power of his works,
    in giving them the inheritance of the nations.
The works of his hands are faithful and just;
    all his precepts are trustworthy;
they are established forever and ever,
    to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.
He sent redemption to his people;
    he has commanded his covenant forever.
    Holy and awesome is his name!
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
    all those who practice it have a good understanding.
    His praise endures forever!

A decade ago as I wrestled with deep, undiagnosed depression, I struggled to give thanks with my whole heart, to be thankful for hard things. But I decided to start my own hunt to name 1,000 ways God was blessing me, to call out who my God is. At first the exercise sounded like the items on a child’s handprint turkey — family, food, friends, faith, freedom. But in an attempt to not repeat anything on my list, something shifted as I dug deeper. My single words became sentence-long prayers of gratitude.

Instead of complaining about mount-never-rest, the tower of unfolded laundry on my living room floor, I saw how God had blessed me with little ones to wear those little clothes and to be wrapped in those little towels after warm baths. Instead of looking with disdain upon a kitchen floor that needed to be mopped yet again, I thought about all the women around the world doing life on dirt floors, and I said, “Thank you, Lord, for giving me this floor to mop.”

One winter night I gave thanks for the last-minute dinner we shared with my father-in-law, noting how he didn’t complain about having to eat gluten-free spaghetti. It would be the last time I saw him, for just a few weeks later as I was 80 days into my gratitude journey, he died of a heart attack. When the news came, my family and I stopped to count the blessings God had bestowed upon us in that moment and in the past. We were all learning to be thankful always and in all circumstances.

In those days of grief, counting blessings took on a new urgency as God deepened my joy in Him and became an antidote for depression because my eyes were fixed not on my circumstances but on the goodness of my God.

  • What about you? What is easy for you to thank God for in this season of your life?
  • What is something for which you are struggling to thank Him?
  • Do you have a rhythm of thanksgiving in your life?

In the past decade, my journey of thanksgiving to the God who orchestrates the details of my life has taken on different forms from numbered lists on lined papers to prayers in journals, from Post-It notes, cut-out leaves, and chalk sketches across the wall to notes jotted in Bible margins. The how isn’t important. The what is. Eyes fixed on the goodness of God.

  • What is one thing you will do each day this week to keep your eyes on His graces?
Thanksgiving Songs
Today’s Bible Reading
  • Romans 15:4
  • Hebrews 13:15
  • I Thessalonians 5:16-18
  • Psalm 111
Did you know?

Four hundred years ago in 1621 after a tenuous first year in the New World, the 53 surviving Puritans of Plymouth Plantation celebrated a successful harvest with a three-day feast. Their native friends, who had helped them survive in a new place, joined the party, and although today’s history books have erased the religious nature of this celebration, we know much about the Puritans’ faith and how they feasted in times of celebration and fasted in times of crisis. In his book Of Plymouth Plantation, William Bradford consistently pointed to God’s hand upon his life and the lives of these men, women, and children who set forth to establish a new life in America. Gratitude to God for His protection and provision was a daily practice marked by occasional feasts to praise the Lord, much as it was in Bible times.