Okay, Thanksgiving was a week ago. Are you still thankful?
Six days ago, we in the United States took a holiday to consider how truly blessed we are as a country, as families, and as individuals.
The difficult fact is that many of us have forgotten the purpose of the holiday, which is conveniently included in the holiday's name as a reminder. It is to give thanks. Thanksgiving.
Sadly, when you ask some about the meaning of the holiday, they'll say 'giving thanks', but when you ask them what they do on Thanksgiving, they talk about parades, food, football, naps, and even shopping.
They also mention, in many cases, family. It's become okay to openly discuss the dread some feel about getting together with their family, sometimes for the only time in a year. Sly implications about family strife, scandal, idiosyncrasy, and buried grievances can find a way out at, or near, the table.
These incidents, or sometimes just the simmering tension that there may be an incident, overshadow the true purpose of the holiday. Being thankful for what we DO have.
Some ask the question - "What do I have to be thankful about? My marriage is broken, my kids are a mess, my parents/brother/sister/inlaws/aunts/uncles/etc. are mad at me, I'm in crushing debt, my house is falling apart, my job is killing me, I'm sick, I'm tired, I'm depressed and I'm miserable. Tell me, what is there to be thankful for?"
When someone asks this - rhetorically or not - our tendency is to shake our heads and tacitly agree. We don't want to be rude and not acknowledge the question, but neither do we want to get out our pom-poms and say, "Come on Sparky, cheer up! Let's turn that frown upside down!!"
It's true, sometimes we can be overwhelmed by the list of problems we have on our plate. Some of those problems sap us of all the energy we need to address the entire list. So we just look at the mountain and say, "Why bother? It's too high."
It's an old saw that is always met with a chuckle when questions like these are posed.
"At least you got your health!"
This is meant to address the enormous pile of dung piled up at the door, while also gently reminding us that there are things to be thankful for, even in the toughest of circumstances.
First, the obvious: if you have your health, you have an advantage over anyone who doesn't. When you at least feel okay, not suffering from ailments large or small, you can be thankful for that. And the energy you save can be used addressing something else on your list. But what?
Second, you can choose what you want to address next. Although there are undoubtedly things in life that make us feel like we have no choice (I have to work, I have to pay my bills, I have to fight back against enemies, I have to answer the lies they tell about me), there are very few things over which you cannot exercise at least some degree of optionality.
"But there are consequences! I'll get fired, lose my house, get my car repossessed, people will believe the lies or think I'm a coward! I have no choice about what I can do!"
You've already made choices though. You want to keep your job, your house, and your car. You want to defend your reputation. You do not technically have to. You can accept the consequences, difficult though they may be.
Third, as a subset of health is our senses. Can you see? Can you hear? Can you feel, taste or smell? Don't take these for granted. Not having even one of these senses creates a whole host of issues that you don't have to deal with.
Can you walk, move, speak? Do you have functioning arms and legs?
You get the idea. Not everyone has what you have.
And you don't have what everyone else has.
Thankfulness is focusing on the former - what you have - and appreciating it without coveting and being bitter about the latter - what you lack.
The Lord provides us what we need when we need it. To think of what we need strictly in terms of things is too narrow.
Trust the Lord to know what you need, what is best for you, what will provide the most benefits in the short, long and eternal terms. He has that perspective while you do not.
So what other things should we be thankful for?
God cares about us enough to work with us and care about what we do, what we are and what we become.
God is with us even in our most difficult times.
God loves us enough to sacrifice His only son for our redemption and salvation. No one else could do that.
Growth. Over time, God uses trials and tribulations to strengthen our bodies, minds and most importantly, our character. If you think about it, you have learned something from every difficulty you've ever faced. That is not an accident. It's how God refines you in preparation for heaven.
Hope. Because Jesus did not come into the world to condemn it, but to save it. God isn't giving these tests to punish us. He wants to help us grow. He wants us to pass these tests. He will give them as often as necessary until we pass. He has time. Don't worry. You'll get there. THAT is hope.
Hopefully, this short list triggers more items to add to your list of things you are thankful for.
The key now is to keep your list updated and not wait 358 more days before you think about thankfulness again. You'll be surprised how long your list gets.
If you make every day a small thanksgiving day, then when next November rolls around you can give thanks as you do every day and then go have fun watching or playing football, eating yourself silly or planning your shopping attack for Black Friday.
Thank you for reading. Have a wonderful day. God bless you!