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A Stormy Thanksgiving

November 24, 2014

Well, Thanksgiving is just around the corner.  For some this holiday means football, for others it means shopping but for most Americans it primarily means eating ourselves into a food coma surrounded by our friends and family.  Usually we remember to slip into the day that we are supposed to be thankful too and I do hope that we never allow that reality to be lost.

Our church had a sermon yesterday on giving thanks and I can imagine that thousands of other churches did so as well.  We were reminded of several of the dozens Bible verses that urge us to give thanks and this reminder is good.  One thing was missing though.  What does it actually mean to give thanks?

I think sometimes we Christians, in our zeal to be faithful, mix up being thankful and being happy.  We take verses like “in everything give thanks” and say it is our Christian duty to put a thankful (read happy) face on everything that comes our way.  The results get silly or even hurtful.

You just lost your job?  Smile and give thanks!  You have stage four cancer?  Wonderful, you need to thank God.  Your heart has been shattered by the loss of a loved one?  Praise God!  You are all alone on a day when families gather together?  Isn’t God good?

When we say, or even insist, that someone needs to be happily thankful when they are hurting we are sure it is for their own good.  We are reminding them that God is in control; that everything works together for good; that eventually we will see the good in the horrible thing that has happened.

But what if being thankful does not require us to be happy?  What if the intellectual knowledge that God is in control does not have to overpower the grief within us?  What if we don’t have to pretend to be happy to be thankful?

I can’t help but think that, on Thanksgiving Day, there are going to be hundreds of people out there who are hurting beyond belief and unable to put on a happy face.  For these people the only thing they can do is to cling tenaciously to the rock that is Christ as they are pounded by the storms of life; and I don’t think that God requires them to smile and be happy as they do.

Neither should we.

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From → Christianity

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