How to Have a Happy Thanksgiving


Thanksgiving. A day we set aside to be thankful, a day filled with the hopeful expectations of good times and great food. Sometimes we have really high expectations—that we put on ourselves and on others—and if those expectations aren't met, it ruins the whole thing.

Thanksgiving is a time when many of us will have the opportunity to be with family and friends. We expect to be happy to see everyone, to enjoy the people we love and make treasured memories. We try not to think about the possibility for conversations to go bad, for dinner rolls to be burned, and for our big plans to go wrong in small ways.

In spite of our best intentions to be joyful and pleasant, there's the chance that little ones might annoy us by being too loud and bigger kids might drive us nuts by being on their phone and acting like they don’t want to be there—bigger kids of all ages. Some of us will be unhappy because someone is at the table that we wish hadn’t been invited, some of us will be sad because someone is missing from the table this year. Pretty much every Thanksgiving is one awkward conversation away from catastrophe. 

Some people try to sit the whole thing out. Previous drama has led some of us to prefer the safety of isolation on holidays. Others don't want to be alone but also don’t feel like they have anywhere to go. Pizza delivery does booming business on Thanksgiving.

Holidays can be great, but they can also get in our head and bring out the worst of our brokenheartedness. There are deep seated lies we tell ourselves all year that these special occasions bring to the surface. Lies that make us miserable—to wish things were different than they are, to long for more than we have, to feel sorry for ourselves and rot in the cornbread stuffing of our discontentment.

The devil's a sneaky little turkey—turning a holiday about being thankful into a feast honoring gluttony and greed. That's a pretty good trick.

The solution to all the discontentment that holidays drum up in us is actually found in the main idea of Thanksgiving in the first place. The secret ingredient to make a great Thanksgiving is a thankful heart. I know—your mind was just blown! Who woulda thought Thanksgiving should be about being thankful?

Seriously though, don't miss this. Happiness is what happens when reality exceeds our expectations. If our expectations are selfishly focused on what we want out of the holiday, what we wish we had, circumstances that we wish were different, things we can't change—at least not today—then we'll just make ourselves miserable. The cure to discontentment is to be thankful. Thanksgiving is what we truly need.

Before we sit down at the table and say grace, let's walk around the room showing grace to the people who are there. Let's put our phones away, take our headphones off, get down on the floor and play with the noisy kids for a while—then get back up and shove earplugs in our ears and drink a glass of wine. Let's remember the past without getting stuck in it. Let's plan for the future without neglecting to live in this moment—it’s the only one we really have.

May you rest in the abundant mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave Himself for You and calls you to live in repentant joy receiving His salvation and new life. May you be thankful for all that the Lord has done and all that He has given us, both now and this week, and always.

Let us give thanks to God our Father for all His gifts. Happy Thanksgiving.

Frank Hart