“GIVING THANKS ANYWAY”
Pastor Don Nelson
One Thursday I turned the car radio to a Christian station and heard, “What if all you had today was what you thanked God for yesterday?” It gave me pause. Had this occurred I would have been a poor man, for my prayers of gratitude the previous day had been brief, vague, and perfunctory.
That Saturday I thumbed through a (secular) magazine in a waiting room. This statement jumped out at me: “The one thing all joyful people have in common is gratitude.” Thankfulness breaks the power of anger, resentment, and anxiety, opening our hearts and minds to experience joy.
The following Monday I finished rereading The Hiding Place. Corrie ten Boom was imprisoned in Ravensbruck, a Nazi camp were at least 70,000 women died. The day they arrived there her sister Betsie insisted that they give thanks “for every single thing about this new barracks” – including the fleas:
The fleas! This was too much. “Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.”
“‘Give thanks in all circumstances,’ she quoted. “It [I Thessalonians 5:18] doesn’t say, ‘in pleasant circumstances.’ Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.”
And so we stood between the piers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong.
Only she wasn’t wrong. A few weeks later Corrie discovered why she and Betsie could safely hold (forbidden) prayer services and read out loud from their (forbidden) Bible: the guards were terrified to enter the sleeping areas because of the fleas.
Thursday. Saturday. Monday. Evidently, God was trying to get my attention!
Thanksgiving will be here soon. Some of us can hardly imagine celebrating the holiday. Life is almost more than we can endure. Our hearts and minds are shadowed by grief, disappointment, regret or apprehension. Let us give thanks to God anyway.
Giving thanks does not, in any way or to any degree, require us to deny the reality of pain and hardship. It does require:
- Recognition that whatever – whoever – we have lost, God has showered us with good opportunities, nice possessions, and other precious people. Of course, these people cannot replace the ones we miss; still, they are a source of blessing.
- Intentional effort to release anger, resentment and anxiety.
- Acknowledgment that God is good, kind and generous even in the most difficult and unjust circumstances.
Let us “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever!” (Psalm 136:1)