“When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings – name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.”
Johnson Oatman, Jr. (1897)
This is the month of November. The month of thanksgiving. In just a few weeks many will fill their stomachs full of turkey and dressing. Family will gather. Laughter will fill the room. There might be a fireplace that will be burning and folks will warm their backsides sitting on the hearth. This is the scene we have been taught since an early age. Sadly, however, many others will not know of the smell of the turkey, the warmth of the fire, the room filled with laughter. As we enter into the holiday season, for some there will be stress and tension and turmoil. It’s just the reality of life.
But it’s still a time of thanksgiving. As the hymnwriter penned, there will be billows and tempests. We will be faced with discouragement. Too often we focus on these things and our lives fill up with darkness. But there is another way. A heart of thankfulness helps us transcend the heaviness that so many of us carry. When we begin to count our blessings, we become surprised at what God has done. And it softens our hearts and warms our soul and gives us hope. It’s a mystery of the Spirit how it happens. It creeps up slowly, then floods our souls with joy.
Did you know that thankfulness is meant to be shared. It is not a solo sport! Psalms 95 and 100 are wonderful hymns of thanksgiving to our God. Psalm 100 says to make a joyful noise, shout, sing, and serve! It comes from a heart that overflows in gratitude to God for what He has done!
There is a movement on Facebook to post something every day this month for which you are thankful. I took the challenge. I have now posted 9 days of thanksgiving. It takes a little to get warmed up. It takes just a little to prime the pump. And over the next few weeks, I can see already I’m going to have to dive a little deeper into my thankfulness well and draw out more than just surface comments. I am truly getting to count my blessings. And as the hymnwriter has said, I am already surprised at what the Lord has done.
It’s not too late. I challenge you to write down 30 items of thanksgiving. And then share them with someone. Share them with more than just one. Then I guarantee your heart will begin to spill over. Try it. You’ll see. And you bless others in the process. And, after all, that’s what thanksgiving is all about.