From the Pastor's Desk
"Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Thanksgiving is just around the corner and the preparations have begun. Many people have already made their travel plans, bought plane tickets, prepared for wherever they will stay and have planned their route if they are driving. Others are planning for an influx of family and friends. They are planning the menu, preparing the house, shopping for the things they need and are getting worn out along the way as they do all of this while working and raising families. Yes, preparations are already in process.
All of these things are fine and come from family traditions. We look forward to the celebration of Thanksgiving in whatever way that celebration unfolds. When we sit down to that special meal, many people will offer a prayer of thanksgiving before they dig in. There will even be some who are not particularly religious who will offer some kind of prayer or statement of thanksgiving. The question is, for what will we be thankful?
If we look at the world around us, we find little for which to be thankful. There is great tension now between the U.S. and North Korea; there have been a rash of storms, floods, hurricanes, tornados, and huge brushfires that have taken and touched the lives of many people here and abroad. The country remains divided on many different things, while many people are dealing with financial crises due to the storms. The violence in our country seems to be getting worse, between terrorism and people seemingly just "going postal", killing others for no real reason. Happy Thanksgiving?
There seems to be a great disconnect between the situation in our country and the world, and the celebration of Thanksgiving. In the midst of so much bad stuff, how do we really give thanks and mean it? If you are a Christian, the answer to that question is found in the passage above. We are called to give thanks in all circumstances. I believe that this passage has been misread and misunderstood by many people. Too many people have either heard it or read it as: Give thanks FOR all circumstances. That little word in the middle makes all the difference. Giving thanks IN all circumstances is far different than giving thanks FOR all circumstances.
I cannot possibly believe that our loving God really wants us to be thankful FOR things like cancer, death of a loved one, financial concerns, other illnesses, accidents, violence, or the many natural disasters we see and experience. A god like that would be a sadistic god, not a loving god. However, giving thanks IN all circumstances is much different. We are called to do so because it is possible to do so. We can give thanks in spite of the circumstances in which we find ourselves.
So, for what can we be thankful? These weeks before Thanksgiving are a perfect time to make a list of all that God has done for us since last Thanksgiving. Were you ill and then cured of your illness? Have you gotten through the year financially sound? Are you and your family generally healthy? Did you get through the storms and flooding in such a way that you can find hope even in destruction? Do you have hope in spite of everything? Is there still love within your family? Can you look back through the year and see how God has blessed you during the year? Part of the challenge is to see the blessings in spite of the problems. When problems arise, we tend to focus so much on the problems that we fail to see any blessings. Yet, if we really stop and look, the blessings keep coming even during the trials. The blessings may seem small in comparison to the trouble, but if you add them up, they usually outweigh the problems.
Believing that God will get us through the worst of problems enables us to give thanks IN all things. I hope you can pause enough in your preparations to really get ready for Thanksgiving by recognizing how much God has done in your life and how thankful you really should be.