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Global Outreach International

The Sacrifice of Thanksgiving

by Leanna Hollis
Learning to be thankful in times of sacrifice.

Nearly two decades ago around Thanksgiving day, my life entered a particularly hard time. The circumstances were so bleak I truly didn't think I would make it through. In the moment of financial uncertainty, spiritual attacks, and other ways, I felt as though all hope was gone.

Thankfully in this same moment of life, a wise friend told me something I've never forgotten. "There will come a moment when everything will turn, and you'll be on your way out of this hard time. You might not recognize it at the time, but, looking back, you'll know." 

She spoke truth to me, but in hard times truth isn’t always seen. I waited for the "turning point" and nearly despaired in the waiting. One day, I was more desperate than ever before and simply didn't know what to do. I didn't know where to turn.

At this point in life, I thought I had done what God had asked of me, but I could see no way it was going to work out for me or my family. I was crying, hopeless, and broken. 

On this particular day, I was seriously short on funds and decided to stay in town after dropping my son off at school.  I chose to wait for my son to get out of school rather than spending the gas to drive home and back. I felt that I had to save every penny I could. With seven hours remaining until the end of the school day, I pulled into a parking lot to read my Bible and wait.

The passage I turned to was Psalm 50, where the "cattle on a thousand hills" verse resides. I suggested to myself that the Lord might sell some cattle to help me, when I had the strongest sense in my own heart that I should "turn the page." It seemed as though this was just a foolish word from God, mostly because I wanted to stay on the cattle page and argue for a divine cattle sale.

When the "turn the page" impression grew uncontrollable, I finally did just that. What I read shocked me.

"Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,

and pay your vows to the Most High;

And call upon Me in the day of trouble;

I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me.

Psalm 50:14-15 nasb

It wasn't the "pay your vow" part that gave me trouble. It was the "offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving" part.

A sacrifice of thanksgiving is thanks given when it is hard to do so. This is a sacrifice that costs us something. When we don't feel grateful. When we'd rather whine and complain.

That's where I was—completely out of gratitude.

I  then found a blank index card in my Bible, grabbed a pen and began to think of things for which I could give thanks. I filled the front of the card then the back. Next, I found a scrap of paper and filled it, too. 

By the end of my thanksgiving, something had changed. I had reached my turning point. I didn't know it was a turning point, but my heart was lighter than it had been in weeks. My hope was restored.

This morning before I began to write this, a young friend and I sat down to consider life, faith and our questions about both. We both had struggles without answers and wanted a kind of rescue we hadn’t yet received. 

The power of offering a sacrifice of thanksgiving came to mind. “Let’s give thanks and see what God does,” I suggested. We slid out of our seats onto the floor and began to give thanks. This ended up taking a while because we both found ourselves blessed in extravagant ways. When we were done, our hearts were strangely warmed and there was light in our uncertainty and confusion. The answer might not be completely clear yet, but we’re one sacrifice of thanksgiving closer than we were before. 

I believe the principle of Sacrificial Thanksgiving is one from which we can all benefit, because it comes with a promise: 

If we offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving, pay our vows to God, and call on Him, He will rescue us and use that rescue to honor Him.

Are you going through a hard time? Does it feel as if all hope is gone? As if you don't know which way to turn? Are you in need of a rescue that honors God? 

Perhaps what you need is a time of Sacrificial Thanksgiving. Grab a pen and paper and make a list of all the things for which you can thank God in your trial. Don't whine. Don't complain about the trial. Thank Him.

After you thank Him, then call upon Him for help and wait in expectation because we serve a God who keeps His promises. Every single time.

As we celebrate another Thanksgiving Holiday, let’s do more than offer turkey and dressing to those we love. Even if we’re not going through a hard time, let’s offer a sacrifice of  thanks to the One who loves us most.