Although sounding similar “the pursuit of happiness” and “the act of thanksgiving” are fairly different. One is the seeking of an emotional state somewhat dependent on outside persons, resources, luck, or events. Thanksgiving is a slowing down to render an internal accounting of the blessings, beauty, gifts, and God’s goodness in any circumstance. The pursuit of happiness is allusive with the ethereal emotional state always lying a little bit further away. The sought after happiness resides in the future. Those who try hardest for happiness often end up the most disappointed. In contrast, thanksgiving occurs in the exact moment we lift our head and look to heaven in praise and thanks to God. Thanksgiving sews gratitude into our living. Thankfulness occurs in the present tense. Thanksgiving connects our souls to God and often produces happiness or better yet joy.
One can experience thanksgiving in the midst of terrible circumstances. We rarely are successful if we pursue happiness in the hospital, graveside, or other difficult spaces. Trying to be happy when we are boxed in or limited by circumstance proves frustrating. However, we can be thankful in all circumstances. Thanksgiving remembers, sees beyond, anticipates, celebrates God’s presence and focusses on life’s good gifts. Even when life prevents the active pursuit of happiness, we can experience thankfulness for the God’s good gift of life. Once when visiting a dear saint during troubling times, I tucked the green hospital embossed blanket up around her shoulders. She smiled an honest but faint grin and said: “Thank the Lord for this is a nice warm blanket.”
The Bible tells us to pursue righteousness not happiness. Over and over again the Scriptures call us to give thanks, be thankful, with gratitude, or to offer prayers of thanksgiving. The Temple worship revolved around thanksgiving and praise. Thanksgiving runs deeper than happiness. Let us stop pursing elusive emotions, temporary distractions, and short term entertainment. Let us become a more spiritual people who: stop to pray, notice beauty, look around, and look up and offering our thanks to God.
Let us give thanks to the Lord. Perhaps we will fall into happiness as a bonus.
Grace and Peace