If Disney World is “the happiest place on earth” and Christmas is “the most wonderful time of the year” wouldn’t it make sense that to be at Disney World on Christmas Day would mean that you are at the happiest place on earth during the most wonderful time of the year? If so, why are there so many frustrated parents and angry children at that place at that time?
We understand that just because we ought to feel a certain way, does not necessarily mean we do feel a certain way. Consider Thanksgiving; it is a time to give thanks for all your blessings, but what if you do not feel thankful on this day? What if, due to the situations and circumstances of life, you don’t feel like giving thanks but offering up complains? What if giving thanks seems impossible? What if we don’t feel thankful on Thanksgiving?
With thanksgiving approaching, this morning we look at the issue of thanksgiving through the lives of two women: Peninnah and Hannah. In the first chapter of 1 Samuel, we are introduced to these women who not only share the same house, but share the same husband (Elkanah). Needless to say, this caused problems. Our focus in this story shall be on the situation and circumstances of the two women in relation to thankfulness.
Peninnah: When times are good
Peninnah was one of Elkanah’s wives. She, unlike Hannah, was able to bear children and thus considered herself to be the more superior wife. Peninnah was having a great time with all seeming to go well, but there was not thankfulness in her heart. She was not thankful for God’s blessing but was prideful. She would “provoke [Hannah] grievously to irritate her” (1 Sam 1:6).
Hannah: When times are not good
Hannah, the other wife of Elkanah, was in a difficult situation with very little going well. Consider the following: she had to share her husband with another woman (v. 2), she was unable to have children (v. 2), she was provoked grievously by the other wife (v. 6), she wept continually and would not eat (v. 7), her husband didn’t understand and made her feel guilty (v. 8), she was deeply distressed (v. 10), she was troubled in spirit (v. 15), she had great anxiety and vexation (v. 16). On top of that, a priest (religious leader) rebuked her and falsely accused her of being a worthless woman who regularly gets drunk (vs. 12, 16). Hannah’s world felt as if it was stuck on bad and never to get better. She struggled with thankfulness because it felt as if there was nothing to be thankful for.
What is the Answer?
The answer is not cold, dead, lifeless religious observance. Peninnah was outwardly religious and kept the religious observances like a good wife, but her heart was far from God. It is true of her the saying, “These people honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Matt 15:18). Her formal religious observance did nothing to fix her unthankfulness; it actually kindled the pride that fueled it. She was not only unthankful, but malicious. She had a great time in the house as the wife who brings her husband children and she taunted Hannah because of her inability to bear children.
The answer is faith. Hannah, like Peninnah, observed the religious requirements; but, unlike Peninnah, did so because she had faith in the promises of God. Hannah wept before the Lord in prayer for her situation (v. 10). Hannah would not eat because she was fasting in order to draw near to God in prayer (v. 8). We know that Hannah had faith because she recognized that God has the power to give her a son or not give her a son. Hannah had faith because she knew that if God did give her a son; the son would be given to God for His service.
We also know Hannah had faith because of her reaction to the words of Eli, the priest of God. When he told her to “go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to Him” (1 Sam 1:17); she “went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad” (1 Sam 1:18). Neither her situation nor her circumstances had changed, but she was no longer sad because she believed that God would answer her prayer. Hannah struggled with thankfulness when she came, but in prayer exchanged her sorrow, worries and doubt for peace, hope, and joy. She came with unthankfulness and left with gratitude.
God tells us that thankfulness is not dependent upon on our feelings or our circumstances. The basis for giving thanks is the goodness and mercy of God, not whether or not we are experiencing good times here on earth.
As Thanksgiving approaches, examine your heart to see what motivates gratitude in your life. If you become too dependent on the world and the things of this world, your thankfulness will become a slave to people and the things of this world and you will be miserable.
But if you tie your reason for being thankful to God and His promises, you will be eternally satisfied because Jesus is eternally satisfying. He is the “same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb 13:8). Jesus is the reason to be thankful even if it feels as if your world is stuck on bad and never to get better. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection mean that we always have a reason for thankfulness in our hearts. This Thanksgiving, we pray that you would be thankful because of Jesus.