Thanksgiving Day has arrived and with it a host of things are happening. In many kitchens across our country, loving moms are working hard to prepare the perfect lunch for their families. Friends and families are gathering for, perhaps, the first time since last Thanksgiving. Macy’s is preparing to begin it’s famous parade to kick off the season of unrestrained consumerism. Businesses are, for the most part, closed as everywhere people are reminded to be thankful.
Paul, instructed us to “be thankful in all things.” (1 Thes. 5:18) I suspect all of us find ourselves in one of three situations, this Thanksgiving morn, as we attempt to make sense of that verse.
In the first situation, our life could not be better. We couldn’t think of a difficulty in life even if we were challenged to do so. Giving thanks is pretty easy in that situation though, ironically, the better life is the less likely we seem to be thankful.
In the second situation, our life has some challenges but, on balance, things are pretty good. It’s like we are keeping score with the good parts of life being worth plus one point and the tough parts of life being worth minus one point. And, as we tally the score, we realize we are in the positive. So, while things certainly could be better, we realize there is lots for which we can be thankful.
There is a problem with the second scenario. Namely, what happens when the score card puts us in the negative? In other words, what happens when the scope of life’s tragedies is so immense that the bad outweighs the good?
That brings us to the third situation. What about when a routine visit to the doctor changes our life forever? What about when the phone rings and the news is so devastating that we don’t think we can keep going? What happens when someone we love says something so hurtful to us that we can’t even seem to breathe? How in the world are we supposed to be thankful then?!?
Go back to the verse and notice that Paul did not say “be thankful for all things.” He said, “be thankful in all things. Only a severely demented person is thankful for life’s tragedies. That isn’t what Paul is telling us to do. Rather, he is saying that we can be thankful in spite of life’s tragedies. A great question would be, “How?” The answer to that question is that while I can’t be thankful for all of life’s circumstances (and God doesn’t expect me to be!), I can be thankful for the God who is ever-faithful regardless of life’s circumstances. Matt Redman has already said it much better than I ever could in his song, Never Once.
Standing on this mountaintop
Looking just how far we’ve come
Knowing that for every step
You were with us
Kneeling on this battle ground
Seeing just how much You’ve done
Knowing every victory
Was Your power in us
Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Yes, our hearts can say
Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful
How can I be thankful when life is really hard? Because it’s not life’s tragic circumstances for which I am required to be thankful. Rather, I can be thankful that never, not one solitary time, have I ever walked alone. I can be thankful that never, not even when I felt otherwise, did God leave me on my own. God, You are faithful! And, in response, I am thankful.