Original post at http://www.grdistrictumc.org/2012/11/being-thankful/
In our family before we dive into the mashed potatoes and the dressing; before we pour the gravy over the turkey; before we sit down at the table for the our Thanksgiving Day feast; we gather in a circle, hold hands, and share one thing for which we are thankful. Sometimes the sharing is funny and draws out laughter and almost every year there’s one or two that brings forth tears. But it is a meaningful few moments that we share together, reflecting appreciation for a gift of God that we have received over the past year.
One thing I have noticed though is that most of our thanksgiving is for positive stuff. We are grateful for the gift of each other, we are thankful for homes and jobs and things like that. And while I am indeed thankful for those things, I am trying to learn some of the lessons that the Apostle Paul seeks to teach the folks at the church at Thessalonica. He tells them in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 to “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Notice Paul doesn’t suggest that we give thanks for all circumstances he simply invites us to give thanks in all circumstances. There is a huge difference here! If God is the author of everything that comes into our lives then it would, I suppose, behoove us to give thanks for all circumstances. But I don’t believe that everything that happens comes from God. I am a Wesleyan and we believe that there are in fact all kinds of stuff that happen in the world that are not at all God directed, in fact there are many things that cause God to weep.
So what is Paul suggesting? He is suggesting that in every circumstance there is an opportunity to rejoice and give thanks because God is present with us, because God is constantly about the business of taking the worst things in our lives and in our world and undertaking to transform them into pathways of grace and new life.
So friends, this Thanksgiving let us celebrate the wonderful gifts in our lives. Let us give thanks for family and friends. Let us give thanks for homes and hearths. Let us give thanks for health and jobs and everything positive that we have. But in the midst of that celebration, let us give thanks as well that in the most troubling of times, in the most painful of life’s circumstances, we have a God who loves us and whose grace is sufficient for every need. Let us give thanks that as we live in that reality it invites us to actively offer that good news to the world in ways that help to bring about the process of God’s kingdom coming on earth even as it is in heaven.
Let us give thanks… always, in every circumstance because while life is full of trials, God never leaves us or forsakes us.