The sacrifice of thanksgiving

As we head into our Thanksgiving holiday tomorrow, here’s a rerun from 2013 that seems extra relevant now. There’s always something wrong in our lives and in the world. Sometimes it threatens to crush our spirits. Can we pause for a minute to reflect on what’s good and right, and be grateful for it?

I’m not by nature a happy person. That doesn’t mean I’m an unhappy person. I just don’t go around all day thinking sunshine, rainbows, and unicorns. I see the good and the bad.

I’m also a bit of a type-A personality. I have a considerable internal drive to make things better and to fix what is broken. I spend a lot of my time frustrated because I just can’t fix it all. Sometimes the problems are beyond my abilities, and frequently I lack the resources I need.

So you see where my focus is: more on the bad than the good. I’m aware of the good but I feel the bad.

The other day in some words in a psalm caused me to stop dead. From Psalm 50, verses 14-15 and 23:

Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and perform your vows to the Most High,
and call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.

The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me.

sacrifice of thanksgiving? I know all of these words individually, of course, but strung together in that order I struggled to understand them.

So I asked, because this came up during Sunday school. And the teacher said, “One way to look at it is that you’re giving up ingratitude. But thanksgiving itself really is a sacrifice.”

It left me more puzzled than satisfied.

But as I studied it and thought about it, I came to see that just because something is always wrong, and some things are very wrong, it is a sacrifice to set it aside for awhile and be grateful for what is good and right.

This helped me realize that I had lost touch with something important. A dozen years ago, my life fell apart. And as I put my life back together, the bad days and bad things dwarfed the good. I had to search hard for the good. They were usually very small things, and they were always very few in number. But I looked for them, because finding something good in every bad day was the knot at the end of the rope to which I clung.

My living room in the morning
One small thing for which I am frequently surprisingly grateful: the morning sun streaming through my front windows. I love how the warm light plays against the wall.

Thanks to a lot of hard work over the past several years, there’s way more good than bad now. But I’m still that guy who wants to fix and improve things – and often that’s all I can think of.

It’s hard to sacrifice it and offer up thanksgiving to God.

Perhaps that’s why it’s a sacrifice. When things are truly going poorly, when the biggest thing I have to be thankful for is mighty small, it can really hurt to thank God for it. And for some reason, at least for me, when more is right than is wrong it’s easy to focus on the wrong. It is still surprisingly hard to thank God for what is good.

And a sacrifice – you should feel it. Otherwise it’s not a sacrifice.


6 responses to “The sacrifice of thanksgiving”

  1. zimmette Avatar

    Jim, I have been following your blog for awhile now as a fan of your photo knowledge and your words. I too am a writer albeit a somewhat blocked one at the moment.

    This particular post on this day reached into my soul. I am where you were, walking a tightrope and struggling to find a reason to stay with this balancing act.

    Thank you. Thank you for sharing your words, your thoughts, your feelings. It is difficult, darn near impossible, to see any good at times.

    Regards and thankfulness for being a member of your community. As I look for a way to offer my sacrifice of Thanksgiving this year.

    Blessings, Sent from Carrie’s iPhone


    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’m so happy that my post was timed right for you and that it spoke to you today. I love it when I put something out into the universe and it resonates.

  2. Moni Avatar

    Thanks for this reminder! I am working on having more gratitude in my life, even for little things. It takes work to do this because my brain tends more toward the negative. But the more I am grateful the easier it becomes to see the positive in everything.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      My brain tends toward the negative too. I don’t want to become all gratitude all the time; I find that my negative brain truly does have some very good uses. But I don’t want to forget about the good, forget about being grateful for it.

  3. Maureen Sudlow Avatar

    thank you for these insights

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