Just like you, I love the Thanksgiving holiday. The family dinner, the decorations, I even like the frantic week of preparations before I host the family dinner. There is something lovely about setting aside a distinct time to remind ourselves to be thankful.
For the follower of Christ, thanksgiving is more than a holiday. It is a power. In Psalm 100:4, King David wrote, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name”. Giving thanks to our Lord is the very avenue by which we enter into the Presence of God. There is nothing that compares to that!
Giving thanks and praise to God actually lifts us out of our earthly circumstances and focuses all of our attentions onto the Almighty. Once all of our attention is on Jesus, instead of on our circumstances, we are able to stop worrying, stop striving in our earthly strength to change an uncomfortable or downright horrible situation and we finally give God the opportunity to work on our behalf.
Paul and Silas must have already learned this lesson as they sat in a filthy, Roman prison after a severe flogging that they didn’t deserve. Acts 16:25 reads, “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them”. This is obviously not the natural reaction to a beating and imprisonment and the other prisoners likely thought that they had lost their minds! However, verse 26 says, “Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose”.
It is not a coincidence that Paul and Silas’s praise opened prison doors and loosened chains. Their thanksgiving had allowed them to enter into the courts of our God while they sat on the cold, hard floor of that jail cell. Friend, if on this Thanksgiving holiday you find that your life feels like a prison; maybe a cancer diagnosis, a crumbling marriage, wayward children, poverty, whatever it is; turn on your praise music and sing out loud thanksgiving to our Savior. Then watch the chains around your emotions, your thoughts, and even your circumstances become loose.