Giving Thanks and Finding Joy

Good morning from Managua, Nicaragua!

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays of the year. I enjoy eating, hanging out with family and friends, football, and of course eating. Living in Nicaragua for the past two and a half years, Thanksgiving has been a little different. Thankfully, Maria Jose and my friends from El Canyon have helped Jen and I celebrate by coming together with us to prepare and enjoy Thanksgiving dinner. This has been a great blessing to both of us. Despite the differences, the spirit behind the day is the same – giving thanks. This is something everyone can understand, whether they are from United States, Nicaragua, or some other part of the world.

As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, it makes me wonder why I do not give thanks more often. In one of Paul’s letters to the church of the Thessalonians he writes, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NIV 1984) If I am honest, I do not give thanks in all circumstances. In fact, there are times when I feel ungrateful because of what I do and do not have and/or because of what is going on in my life at the moment. This feeling has a tendency to affect the way I think and my level of joy. Instead of focusing on the blessings in life, I begin to get caught up in the challenges. It is in these moments that I need a change of focus.

Paul’s challenge to “give thanks in all circumstances” is an important one. Notice, Paul does not say “ignore all bad circumstances”. Instead, he says to give thanks despite what is going on around you. This is something I am trying to learn to do. Instead of focusing on the negatives, I am striving to look for the blessings in the midst of the storm. Yes, I may be going through something difficult, but God has still given me my life, clothes to wear, food to eat, and much more. Ultimately, God has given me the opportunity to be in a relationship with him through the death and resurrection of Jesus, which is what really matters. By focusing on and being thankful for what God has provided and continues to provide, I find that I have more joy. When you are continually thankful it is a lot easier to be, as Paul says, “joyful always”.

This Thanksgiving my hope and prayer is to keep my eyes on all of the blessings that God has given me and to be thankful for them. Life may not be perfect, but I still have plenty for which to be thankful. This Thursday I would challenge to make a list of all reasons you should be thankful. Not only will this help you give thanks on Thanksgiving, but it will also serve as a reminder when you begin to forget how blessed you are. Maybe if we are all a little more thankful the world will be a little more joyful. Food for thought.

Happy Thanksgiving!

– James Belt 

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