God’s Word calls us to life that is marked by songs of thanksgiving shared with each other, and directed together to God. God desires this as the tenor of our lives; he wants us to see, and to delight in his goodness. Yet because of our small vision and sin we have far more than we realize to give thanks for, or perhaps more than we want to give thanks for! Two preachers from the past help us out here, as they encourage us to grow in holistic thanksgiving.
Matthew Henry says, “we should give thanks for all things; not only for spiritual blessings enjoyed, and eternal ones expected, but for temporal mercies too; not only for our comforts, but also for our sanctified afflictions; not only for what immediately concerns ourselves, but for the instances of God’s kindness and favor to others also.” It is our calling in “everything to give thanks to God as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and our Father in him, in whose name we offer up all our prayers, and praises, and service, that they may be acceptable to God.”
John Calvin, preaching in Geneva in 1558-59 called his congregation to this kind of a wide, and deep thanksgiving. A life of thanksgiving that can only come by grace, as we see all things by faith in Christ:
“Now St. Paul will have us not only to thank God for the benefits we feel noticeably, but also, although he afflicts us and handles us at various times otherwise than we would wish, yet he will have us praise him still, following the example of Job, who not only thanked God when he had his children at his table, and they made merry as they feasted with one another, but also when he was bereaved of his children and left alone in his house. When all his goods were taken away, partly by robbers, partly by lightning that fell from heaven, and when he was so miserable that it seemed that lice would eat him up, he did not cease to say, The Lord has given, the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord… In this passage [in Ephesians] he says that we must thank God for all things, not only when we are in prosperity and things fall out as we would wish, so that God gives us our heart’s desire and we live in delight and pleasure, that is not the only fit time and season to yield praise to God…
Let us see then if we do not have reason to bless God in all our adversities. For first, whatever happens to us, he supports us… seeing that we keep on, is a sign that he spares us. We have cause to thank him for that. When he turns the chastisements he sends us, to our benefit, he sanctifies us to cause us to make continual progress in the kingdom of heaven. He loosens us from our earthly roots, because we are too tied to the world; he is working to bring us to come to the full perfection prepared for us in heaven. When we see all this, do we not have cause to praise our God, even if we are full of grief, care, fear, and doubts?”
This kind of radical, holistic thanksgiving is what seems to have marked the New England Pilgrims–who gave thanks to God, yes, after a good harvest, but as 53 out of the 102 who had arrived together a year earlier. They rejoiced and gave thanks to God, after a year with 49 funerals of close friends and family members, and a good harvest. May God grants us the grace and vision to have this kind of deep and wide thanksgiving.