It’s easy to be thankful when everything is good. I’m always thankful when the sky is blue and the weather is perfect. I’m especially thankful when I feel good, had a great night’s sleep and when all is well with those I love. I’m extremely grateful when food and drink are plentiful and all seems right when the world. I love a perfectly balanced day when I have work to do, get to exercise but also get to take a nap.
But what about the not so perfect times in life? How about when pandemics rage and the numbers are going up despite all the trying we’ve been doing? How about when the election is over but somehow is unsettlingly not over? How about when you get bad news or your close friend does? What about when the job goes away or the relationship dissolves or you’ve shared those harsh words you can never take back?
What about when the holidays are coming but they are NOT GOING TO BE THE SAME? What about when doing the very things you love and took for granted are now tainted with all this fear, mistrust, worry, controversy and angst?
Today’s word from Jesus Calling addresses just that. It quotes Ephesians 5:20, Always give God thanks for everything. I thought surely that was a typo. We are supposed to always give thanks for everything? Be grateful for what’s not right, hurts or feels terrible? Be grateful when we are lost, grieving or down and out? The devotional by Sarah Young clarifies it, There is an element of mystery to this transaction: you give Me (God) thanks (regardless of your feelings), and I give you Joy (regardless of your circumstances). (Jesus Calling, November 24)
I love this line from the devotional as well. Thankfulness opens your heart to My presence and your mind to My thoughts.
Maybe you are having a hard time with gratitude this year. I know I’ve had my rough moments…sometimes several times in one day. Maybe you will be alone on Thanksgiving or you are sick or someone you love is. Maybe you’ve lost someone dear to you. Maybe your job is gone or has become tenuous. Maybe your family is having a rough time. Maybe you are tired of the kind life we all have now. Give thanks for everything scripture says. To me this is a spiritual challenge, one of those counterintuitive upside down parts of being a person of faith. Are you up for the challenge?
Recently our grandsons’ church preschool shut down due to an outbreak of Covid. My daughter and son-in-law had to work and needed help. We talked it over and I decided to go help for a few days. We reasoned that our Covid risk to one another was about equal. I don’t know about you but I hate calculating risks especially when it comes to those I love. Once I got there, of course, and the decision was made, the risk thinking fell away and I just enjoyed the time with our 2 and 4 year old boys. I asked them if they had made turkeys at school out of their hands and they said no so we tried an art project. They both told me as I traced their little hands, Mosa, that’s not a turkey, it is my hand. I said, Just wait. I added the beaks, eyes and the gobblers and magically the turkeys appeared. We were all impressed.
I asked them what they loved so we could write those things on each feather, a tribute to our gratitude. Our 4 year old’s answers : a ride, pumpkins, goldfish (the snacks) and helicopters. Our 2 year old’s answers: helicopters (just a little brotherly plagiarism there), food, pink and my baby (he has a soft baby he loves). I must admit, I’ve never once thought to be grateful for helicopters.
As they colored their turkeys, I gave God thanks for them, two little guys that weren’t even on this planet a few years back. Now, here they are, living in a pandemic, in painful and decidedly awkward uncertain times but able to love. to give thanks and to appreciate their Mosa’s art skills.
And how are you this Thanksgiving week? Are you finding a way to give thanks no matter what? Are you up for the Ephesians spiritual challenge? If all else fails, try helicopter gratitude, that always works.
Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, breast cancer survivor, Mosa to Keller, Pace and one on the way. Check out http://www.drcindyryanblog.com for more blog entries, upcoming events, information on the weekly Jesus Calling Prayer Call she co-hosts or to sign up for Cindy’s Inner Circle email list. Sign up by November 30 for the December Top Ten List.