As a country, our sense of thankfulness has become skewed and that’s for one reason alone: We’ve lost our focus on God. We can fuss and moan about our economy, supply chain shortages, and the numerous challenges the pandemic has thrown on us, but despite all that, we still look and act like a prosperous country.

No one says this out loud (at least not in my presence), but this is this underlying sentiment: I’m living good. At least I’m living comfortably. What do I need God for?

Oh, sure, we don’t say that out loud, but that’s the way we act. Come next Thursday, we will give the obligatory nod to God—Hey, thanks for all my stuff!—but then we’ll go right back to family squabbles and frantic Black Friday Christmas shopping.

That loss of focus hasn’t always been the case. In the thick of the Civil War—when our country was sharply and violently divided—the United States Senate called for a national day of prayer and fasting. The Senate—the Senate!!—recognized the country’s need to look to God, and not just with a quick prayer. They called for a fast. Don’t eat. Pray instead. President Lincoln agreed and he signed a proclamation calling for a National Fast Day on April 30, 1863. This proclamation contains some powerful words we need to hear today, and I think it is appropriate to reflect on these words as we observe a day of thanksgiving.

You can read the full proclamation here, but let me share some powerful statements from it.

“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth, and power, as no nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!”

These words are so descriptive of the American landscape in 2021. We have forgotten God.

I recently wrote about the connection between praise and thanksgiving. When we focus on God, His attributes, and His character, we are naturally drawn to thank Him for all the ways He has blessed our lives. We can return to a focus on Him—it’s not too late—and when we do, our expressions of thanksgiving will go far beyond the one-minute obligatory thanks we offer right before gorging ourselves on turkey and dressing. We will truly be thankful.

Lincoln’s proclamation holds nothing back in telling us what we need to do.

“… it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.”

I can’t imagine our national leaders being so bold these days in the declaration of our need for dependence on God, but we can change. To think we can’t change is to doubt the power and sovereignty of God. I want us to return to a sincere dependence upon God, a confession of our sins, and an acknowledgement that any blessings we have come from the hand of Jesus Christ. Then our country will truly be prosperous.

It can happen, but it needs to begin with me. And you.

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