Thanksgiving is a spiritually dangerous time of year.
Why? Because this is a season when many of us put our joy, happiness, peace, and contentment in very uncertain things.
Like the perfect meal. We all want the turkey to be juicy enough for Jennie-O to be impressed. We want the mashed potatoes to be as creamy as the commercials and the wine to be better than Uncle Bill’s box of chardonnay from his Labor Day party.
But this Thanksgiving, like all the ones before it, comes with zero guarantees. Your oven could malfunction, leaving your turkey half baked. Your propane could run out before your bird is salmonella free. Your guest’s taste buds could be finicky, even if the meal is your finest. I could easily think of one hundred ways for your meal to go wrong.
The same is true for your family. We all want our loved ones to love each other during the holidays. We want our siblings to take a break from their bloated political opinions. We want our cousins to take a break from Clash of Clans and catch up conversationally on life. We want our divorced parents to be civil (unlike two Christmases ago . . .) and our children to be grateful for their first-world lives (unlike every other day).
But there are no guarantees in this age-of-outrage, screen-chained-brain, always-needing-more world that anyone will be selfless or grateful or even nice.
I could go on. Life never promised you a Thanksgiving date or short lines at Best Buy or a Detroit Lions victory (if that’s your thing) or a great first day of gun hunting season or safe travels. All of it is uncertain. Everything is temporary.
No wonder it’s hard to be grateful, even on the day we set aside for it . . .
This is why I am addicted to the three words that have changed my Thanksgiving celebration. Actually, they have changed my entire life. They can change yours too. In fact, I recently wrote an entire book about those words, describing how they transformed the way I look at the world. Want to know what they are? Here goes—
GOD is here.
If you think that little sentence is as mediocre as your mom’s microwaved yams, let me explain what each word means:
GOD—I put his name in all caps to remind your soul how much bigger and better GOD is than everything else in your life. GOD is better than the perfect stuffing and gravy, better than falling in love with Zac Efron’s younger (and better-looking) brother, better than three days off of school to play Call of Duty, better than holding your first grandson in his pumpkin-printed jammies, better than sniping a 16-point buck with your firstborn, better than finding your best Black Friday deal.
He’s GOD after all!
Israel’s second king, David, gushed, “Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you” (Psalm. 63:3). He glorified GOD, believing his love/power/presence was better than anything this world had to offer. Even the best parts of being the king!
If your GOD is that wonderful, you are one word closer to having an epic Thanksgiving.
Is—For the seven of you who adored your grade school grammar lessons, here’s a fun reminder—Is is a present tense verb. It’s not past tense like was or future tense like will be or optative like I wish it would be. It’s presently present. In this moment. Happening right now.
(Are you impressed that I used the word optative in a sentence? #hadtogooglethat!)
That grammar is a forgotten reality to many people who believe in GOD. They assume that being with GOD is something for the future, after you take your last breath. In Christian obituaries, I often read that so-and-so was “born to eternal life” on the date that they died, implying that their life with GOD didn’t begin until this life ended.
Not true (and slightly depressing). That same King David famously wrote, “The LORD is my shepherd. . . . Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Psalm 23:1,4).
In other words, that glorious GOD who is better than the best Thanksgiving isn’t waiting for you to die. He is present already . Right now!
Here—If my MacBook Pro dictionary is up to date, the word here means, “in this place.” Instead of being over there in that place, with those people, GOD is here, in this place, with people like you.
That stunning GPS reality is only possible if there is nothing pushing GOD away from being here with you. You have, no doubt, experienced what unloving choices do to a relationship. They push people away, make them avoid being in the same room, and cause them to keep their digital distance via an “unfriend” or “delete contact.”
The same is true with GOD. “Your sins have hidden [GOD’s] face from you” (Isaiah 59:2). Therefore, the only way for GOD to be here is to send sin over there.
Which is exactly what makes Jesus such good news. He was willing to take your sin, your lack of love for GOD and others, to the cross, to take everything upsetting about you over “there” so that you could enjoy GOD right “here.” “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18). To bring you to GOD. Right here. Right now.
So, put those three words together—GOD is here—and you tap into the spiritual key to joy, peace, contentment, and satisfaction. Even if the meal is so bad we have to call Domino’s, GOD is here. Even if your family is disappointingly broken or hopelessly addicted to their screens, GOD is here. Even if your anxiety acts up or your daughter is depressed or your knees ache, nothing can touch the promise that Jesus died and rose to make this true for you—GOD is here. If you believe GOD is better than the best Earth has to offer, those words will change your life.
For that fact, we pause and give thanks today and for all the eternal days to come.