When I think of a Thanksgiving Day meal, I picture a Norman Rockwell painting of an extended family around the table with a huge golden roasted turkey as the centrepiece. Bowls of steaming vegetables, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie are waiting to be served. The family is holding hands, and before grace is pronounced, each one around the table shares one thing for which they are thankful.
Dad starts, “I’m thankful that at 50 years of age I have lost my job, and despite looking for six months I’m still unemployed.” Uncle Tom is next, “I’m thankful my throat cancer has returned and they tell me this time I won’t survive.” We continue around the table to hear others give thanks: teenager Tom for failing his exams so he needs to repeat the year; Aunt Rose for a year of depression and suicidal thoughts; and young Jimmy for his broken arm that never mended.
This is a strange and bizarre scene.
What do any of them have to be thankful for? Is this what the Apostle Paul meant when he said, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” in 1 Thessalonians 5:18?
Does this scripture really mean we are to be thankful for the disasters, hard-times and pain of our lives?
If we have problems being thankful in all our circumstances, what about our clients who are struggling with mental and physical health problems, financial problems and an uncertain future?
Paul urges us to be thankful in all circumstances, not for all circumstances.
Paul wrote these words from a Roman jail. Shackled to a guard while awaiting execution, yet he was still giving thanks. In that situation he found that God was with him, strengthening him. He was thankful for the small blessings that he still had, paper to write to the churches and visits from friends. Finally, he was trusting in God’s promise of eternal life and wrote, “Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory Christ will reveal to us later” Romans 8:18.
Let’s remember to be grateful and celebrate in all circumstances as we strive to be “The Hand of God, in the Heart of the City.”
Major David Oldford
Director of Spiritual Care
Thankful for your presence and support, thankful for the little blessings of life, and thankful for your promises that give us hope.