It’s once again that time of year when we set aside time to focus on giving thanks. Thanks to our God for all He has provided. Thanks for all He is. Thanks for all He’s made us.
It’s that time of year when I often pause to remember the start of the American tradition and stand in continual awe at the Pilgrims that first celebrated Thanksgiving on this continent. Who celebrated and gave thanks despite the fact that every single one of them had suffered the cruel death of a loved one in the year that had just passed. That families had been patched together, binding widows to widowers, orphans to parents who had lost children. That the community had chosen to hold steady, to move forward together. To give thanks. Despite the fact that they had so many reasons to mourn. So much grief burdening them. So many obstacles ahead.
When I’m making a list of things to be thankful for, I know what tops mine: my family, my friends, the chance to write, the Church, His Spirit.
But this year, as I’ve spent these last few months contemplating how I can #BeBetter, how I can stop viewing those who have different opinions or beliefs as my opposition or enemy, I feel like I’m being challenged to something new.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:14-18, Paul instructs us (emphasis my own):
14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. 15 See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Everything. That isn’t always easy. But God also calls us to offer our praise even when it’s hard. Even when it’s a sacrifice. Sometimes, thanksgiving is the same. Sometimes, He asks us to take a step back from the emotion that holds us captive–the pain, the anger, the grief…the happiness, the Joy, the victory–and see things through His eyes. To see that even when we feel loss, He is still at work. Even when death steals from us, He gives us life. Even when we’re prisoners, He offers freedom of the soul. Even when we cannot see the reason, He holds it all in His hands.
But not only that. The things we consider victory and Joy cause pain and fear for others. God cares about that, too, doesn’t He? He loves those who are confused about their identity…He loves those who fear bigotry so much that they extend the definition into things I don’t feel it should include. He loves those who think my faith is dangerous. Does He want us laughing in Joy when we score a “win”…or praying for those who are hurt by it?
This year, I’m going to be spending my Thanksgiving deliberately thanking God for the things and people that cause me stress. I’m going to thank Him for the people who don’t believe as I do–because they have opinions that challenge me, and it’s through challenging each other that we achieve intellectual honesty. I’m going to thank Him for what I’ve lost, because sometimes it takes stripping me of the things I cling to for me to really see Who matters. I’m going to thank Him for every single thing I hope changes in the year to come, because the fact that it’s here in my life means I need to learn from it.
We are all dealt hard blows. We all suffer. We all fear. It’s what we do with it that makes a difference. And if our “doing” is to praise God, to thank Him for the loss, for the pain, for the hurt, for the difficulty… Well then, we’re not going to be seeking revenge. We’re not going to be wallowing in those emotions–we’re going to be wallowing in Him.
And that, my friends, can change the world. One person at a time.
Next week I will be celebrating Thanksgiving and taking the week off from blogging, but be sure to swing by here on Monday, November 26th to see what Cyber Monday sales I’ll be offering!