ISSUES OF FAITH: Finding ways to be thankful

THANKSGIVING IS A great holiday. But today is the day after Thanksgiving. Now what? Wait another year until we’re thankful again? Of course not.

We should cultivate a thankful heart every day. There are plenty of Bible verses to support that idea.

We should be “giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20 ESV).

And we should “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16).

There are more.

Too often I take for granted many of the blessings God provides me: Family and friends; clean air and clean water; grocery stores and hospitals; a heart that beats and eyes that blink; and freedom.

Certainly, if we pause long enough to intentionally look, there is much to be thankful for.

But those two verses say “always” be thankful. Be thankful for “everything.” Be thankful “in all circumstances.”

Really, how can that be? Thankful when your house has been consumed by flames?

Thankful when standing on the loose soil of a loved one’s grave? Thankful?

If someone told me to be thankful in those circumstances, then I presume they would be thankful after I punched them in the nose.Always being thankful sounds a little Pollyanna-ish. Perpetual thankfulness doesn’t sound realistic.

It sounds fake. And it could be, but it doesn’t have to be.

Yes, we are to be thankful, but the Bible also recognizes that grief and sorrow are real.

We are called not only to “rejoice with those who rejoice,” but to also “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). Weep with weepers; don’t tell them to be thankful.

“Singing cheerful songs to a person with a heavy heart is like taking someone’s coat in cold weather or pouring vinegar in a wound” (Proverbs 25:20 NLT).

The lamenter in Lamentations laments: “Look, O Lord, for I am in distress; my stomach churns; my heart is wrung within me …” (1:20 ESV). But the lamenter’s heart eventually becomes thankful.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning, great is your faithfulness” (3:22, 23).

To be thankful every day and in every circumstance requires us to be attentive and to have faith.

Be attentive during the illusion of the normality of life and awaken to the intricacies of God’s handiwork.

Be thankful that your eyes blink.

To be thankful when circumstances are not good requires a deep, unflinching faith in God: faith that God is good; faith that God can mend a broken heart — maybe not quickly but certainly; faith that believes God has a plan, a plan better than ours — a plan that says someday there will no more tears, mourning, crying or pain (Revelation 21:4).

Someday, and until that day, Jesus has told us, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

“Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever” (Psalms 106:1).

Amen.

Happy Thanksgiving — today and every day.

_________

Issues of Faith is a rotating column by five religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. The Rev. Greg Reynolds is pastor of Joyce Bible Church. His email is jbc@joycebiblechurch.org.

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