Recent events – Frankenstorm in New Jersey and New York, the escalating ground war between Hamaas and Israel - remind us that this world is in need of repair. We don't have to watch TV to know this is true. Our own communities, our own homes, our own souls remind us this is true. While God will one day wrap up human history and create a new heaven and new earth, the course of human history has always been and will continue to be pretty grim.
Paul once wrote to the persecuted church in Thessalonica: “Whatever happens, give thanks, because it is God’s will in Christ Jesus that you do this" (I Thessalonians 5:18). I don't particularly like that verse. It's hard. The “whatever happens” part of that verse means, literally, “in every condition, or in every matter,” give thanks. It's worth noting that Paul does not say, “Feel happy.” He says to give thanks because it is God’s will.
When we talk about thanksgiving, or giving thanks, we are not just talking about an emotion or feeling (though it can be that). I wonder if more often than not thanksgiving is a decision, a perspective, a commitment to finding God in our story, a search for God in every memory.
After his house and barn burned down, Japanese poet Masahidewrote wrote, "My barn having burned to the ground, I can now see the moon." That's the idea.
I’ve read other similar perspectives that also go along with Paul's:
'I thank Thee first because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my purse they did not take my life; third, although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed and not I who robbed.' - Matthew Henry, on the night he was robbed.
'Oh, what a happy soul am I although I cannot see, I am resolved that in this world contented I shall be. How many blessings I enjoy that other people don't. To weep and sigh, because I'm blind? I cannot and I won't.' - blind hymn writer Fanny Crosby
I determined this Thanksgiving season to take Paul seriously. I decided to look back over my life and find God in all my memories, good or bad; to find Him in the story of my life, to revisit the places where some kind of barn burned down. I wanted to know if, after the smoke cleared, the moon (or perhaps the Son) would bring even a little light to that dark corner of the world.If you want to read my list of chapters in my life that required a commitment to thankfulness, go to the full article, "A Tougher Kind of Thankful," over at Night Falls and Autumn Leaves. Perhaps it can inspire you to find God in the darker corners of your life's story as well.
I just want to be a tougher kind of thankful this year, a thankful that is determined to find God at work in the chapters of my life that I don't want to re-read. He's there; I just have to find Him."