Rejoice always, pray without ceasing; give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-19
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Despite all that is going on in the country and around the world, Paul’s admonitions to the little band of Christians at Thessalonica apply to us today. Thanksgiving is still a relatively pure holiday, aside from the football games. Without having to buy anything other than a surfeit of food, we often sit down with family and friends to enjoy time together, even if it is time watching the Cowboys or the Lions.
I know retailers are desperate for shoppers to fill their stores. I will not be among them. I have been out on, I think, two Black Fridays. One was back in the late ‘70s or early ‘80s when things were not quite so insane. The last one was a few years ago and cured me forever. The checkout line started at the checkout line then went to the back of the store and snaked down and back up all the aisles. If all the shoppers had been laid end to end, we would nearly have circled Michelle Obama’s butt. My wife’s strategy was to put me in line and just hand me stuff as she found it. By the time I stepped up to pay, I was leaving footprints in the tile.
Whether you shop or sit, watch the game or play games, work or relax, Thanksgiving is a reminder of something essential to us as humans. To be spiritually healthy people, to be children of the Most High God, we have to be able to appreciate all that is life. We are all (ok, there are exceptions) thankful when everything is going well – and we should be. As I heard someone say, “I’m easy to get along with as long as I get my way.” That describes a lot of us, and me too much of the time.
Rejoicing always is hard. Giving thanks in all circumstances is a challenge. There are two ways to look at “for this is the will of God”. Does it mean that whatever is happening to us is God will? Or does it mean that He wants us to be thankful, joyous, and prayerful regardless of what is happening? Or both? I’m always torn between the idea of “no second causes” and the fact that some people loose in the world are plain old tares – warped, sick, and evil. Given how I am sort of naturally in tune with MOTT’s “Tower of Destruction” and the origin of human evil, it isn’t too surprising that I find it hard to accept injustice and oppression. Enduring it myself, I know, is good for me. Watching others who are more innocent than I suffer is more difficult.
God means for us, though, to meet every hardship and trial with faith. We are in Christ Jesus. We can be thankful for Him and to Him regardless of the storm around us. Things are, I believe, going to happen to us that are not the will of God. He may allow it, and we will have to simply trust that He knows how to get us through it and why it has been permitted. We may not understand tribulation at the front door though we do sometimes see goodness and mercy following as it goes out the back.
We have to rejoice always. There’s no way to live as a Christian apart from having the joy of the Lord as our strength. There may be times when our prayer of thanksgiving cannot get beyond, “Thank You, Lord, that You are in this mess with me. Misery does love company.” But we can be thankful for that.
I do hope that your Thanksgiving is a joyous one and that you have time to enjoy family and friends, food and even football. As we fill our plates with pumpkin pie may we also fill our hearts with Hallelujahs.