We are fast approaching the time of year when the United States has ordained that its citizens take some time off to be thankful. Fundamentalists and non-fundies alike are blowing up the Internet with lists of things for which we can be grateful and (oftentimes) covert condemnation of those who don’t look quite thankful enough.
Yet, thankfulness cannot ever be the product of mere command. Some days there would seem to be very little in the way of glad tidings for which we can express our thanks. Some days we just don’t feel very much like being thankful for what we have or can do in the face of what we do not have or cannot do.
“Giving thanks always and for everything” writes the Apostle Paul. But there are some sayings in Scripture that are hard to bear. Thankful for years spend “wasted”? Thankful for being abandoned by friends and family? Thankful for abuse and loneliness and poverty and deception and trauma? It seems so unlikely, so farfetched, so inhumane to even suggest that such at thing is possible.
But I must confess that in my life there have been moments of time when heaven and earth have briefly met and I can see with eyes undimmed by the pain of all the things that have come before when I can be thankful even for these bitter things that have come and gone. Because I believe that there is nothing that can come into my life but that it has been allowed by a gracious Heavenly Father who can take even the wrath of ungodly men and bring good from it. Pain has enriched the glory of grace. Condemnation has increased a love of mercy. Heartache brings with it an increased depth and breadth and height of the ability to love and weep and care for others. For to be thankful is not to claim to have enjoyed what has happened but rather to acknowledge that we are now the better for having endured it.
And so in the spirit of this season, I thank God for allowing my life as it has been thus far. For those who have loved me and befriended me as well as those who have hated and ill-used me. Many have intended evil but I have faith that God has meant it for good. And there is always grace.
I would hasten also to thank all of you as well for your graciousness and your kindness and your encouragement as we’ve shared this time here. Nobody knows what fresh trials or blessings or frustrations or wonderful surprises may be in store for us over the next days but I trust that when it is over we will be able to say together that our Heavenly Father has done all things well.
Enjoy the season. Hug your loved ones. Eat, drink, and be merry. We’ll talk again soon.