Thanksgiving In Spite Of
Chaplain Bill Wolfe
Hello, and welcome once again to the November edition of the Chaplain’s Corner. What a month this past one has been. I had a second throat surgery (first one was 20 May of this year), was on total voice rest for almost 4 weeks and was off work for nearly 5 weeks all told. We attended a LODD funeral three days after my surgery and now my wife is out of work following the passing of her employer and has come down with a case of shingles. (sigh) Aren’t you glad you didn’t ask “how are things going?” ;-)
I was just reading back over prior year’s Thanksgiving articles and found this paragraph:
“Thank you” – just 8 letters…2 small words, but two words that can warm the heart when spoken in sincerity. Like most things we say and do, the attitude of the heart makes all the difference in the meaning. Oh, I guess I could give all kinds of examples: the mother who says “thank you” with tears streaming down her cheeks when you bring her missing child home; the “thanks” someone says without really thinking about it when you pick up something they drop; the “thanks a lot” the driver says when you’ve just hung paper.
I know when Thanksgiving rolls around, it isn’t always easy for many of us to say “thank you” to God with a grateful heart. This year we’ve still got troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. We’ve attended too many LODD funerals. Loved ones have been injured, killed or succumbed to cancer, strokes, or other illnesses. Numerous sad and bad things have happened to most of us through the last year.
God knew these things would come our way, yet He had the Apostle Paul write the words, “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess. 5:18) That’s not saying that God expects us to thank Him for the sad and bad things that come our way, but rather that we are to find reasons to thank Him in spite of the things that come our way. As we find something for which to praise Him, He starts a healing within our hearts that helps us find strength to continue on through the sad and bad. In the midst of sorrow, the writer of Psalm 42 muses:
Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, For the help of His presence. Ps. 42:5 NASB
In Psalm 23, King David tells how he finds comfort and strength in difficult times by reflecting on God’s being there with him. As we find comfort and strength, it becomes easier to find reasons to thank Him. As we thank and praise Him, we find it easier to get closer to Him, and the cycle continues. Granted, this isn’t a quick process. It happens at different paces for different people, but God does bring us through.
Religion in Policing
In another place the psalmist says “I will enter Your gates with thanksgiving in my heart, I will enter Your courts with praise.” At the time that was written, there was a physical temple where God was worshipped in Israel. In our day, I believe that “His courts” simply means His presence, and I believe we can actually experience His presence here. Once you’ve experienced His presence, you can say with the writer of Psalm 84, “One day in Your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere” (Ps. 84:10).
Let’s close in a word of prayer…
Lord, we come once again to the Thanksgiving season. We give You praise and thanks for the many blessings You bestow upon us as we go from day to day. But as we count our blessings, we lift up those among us who have had loss and tragedy come to touch their lives. Help them to reach out to You, for You alone are able to bring comfort in these situations. Help them find even some small thing that they can be thankful for in the midst of sorrow. Encourage them, O Lord, and help them through the days ahead. We thank for Your protection of our peace officers here at home and service personnel around the world and ask for continued protection for them. Thank You, too, for permitting us to live in a country where we’re free to worship You. Amen.
Blessings to you and yours.
Chaplain Bill firstname.lastname@example.org