We often take time during Thanksgiving season to be thankful for all the blessings we have in our lives. It is easy to give thanks for the good things in our lives: health, a place to live, food on the table, good job, good relationships in our lives, etc. But what if one or more of those things go bad? What if our health is not good or we don’t have good relationships in our lives? What if our life this fall has been a struggle? I know this is true for many in Juneau.
The Bible tells us “Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I have had some tough happenings in my life. I confess, at the time, I didn’t feel too thankful. I was more apt to complain to God, asking, “Why?” I was more about looking at my life and seeing all the things that weren’t going right.
Recently, I was working on a children’s sermon about giving thanks and one of the ideas was using a donut to illustrate thanksgiving. I can do donuts! The idea in the object lesson was what we focus on when we look at a donut. We focus on what we have in the donut, not the hole in the middle. When I bite into a donut, I am grateful and anticipating what I do have, not what I don’t have (the hole in the middle).
The emphasis of giving “thanks in all circumstances” tells me to even give thanks for the “hole in the middle” (what I don’t have). Can I give thanks for times when I don’t have an easy life or rose-covered path to walk? Can I give thanks for the thorny path? Giving thanks doesn’t minimize the hardness of life, but it does help us focus on what is good in life that can help us through the tough stuff.
I think of people who went through such horrendous times in the recent hurricanes and the shootings in Las Vegas and Texas. Those are hard things! Painful and sad. What can we be thankful for in hard times? Though what I have lost is huge, I can learn to be thankful for what I do have in times of such loss. I can be thankful for God who is with me through the hard times. He never leaves us nor forsakes us. Though it is hard to understand why, God is still with us. His strength carries us when we can’t carry ourselves.
A man in the Bible who is known to have gone through the hardest time was Job. Yet, as hard as Job’s life was, he never abandoned God. God was all he had left. And God gave him comfort and assurance in his hard times, and for that he was thankful.
I am thankful for the blessings in life. But oftentimes, when it talks about someone in the Bible being blessed, it isn’t all about a rose petal life. Sometimes it is a hard road to travel. Mary, the mother of Jesus, was told by the angel she was blessed. She was highly favored by God and he set before her a hard path being the mother of Jesus. I am baffled sometimes by Christians in parts of the world who undergo persecution who see their lives as blessed because they suffer for the name of Jesus. They have learned it is about giving thanks in all circumstances because God is with us and by His Spirit is also in us. Count your blessings! Focus on the donut, not the hole; not on what you don’t have, but on the many blessings you do have. But, we can also thank God for the hole (all circumstances!). Without the hole, we wouldn’t have donuts! Ponder that for a while! “Thank you, Lord, for each of those who read this article and offered thanks to you for ‘all circumstances.’”
• Dan Wiese is pastor of the Church of the Nazarene. “Living & Growing” is a reoccurring column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders.