There are all these circumstances we can get stuck in, no matter how much we chafe hard against them; and doing-our-best isn’t always enough to change what is, and what is not. We wait for answers to our prayers, and wait for relationships to change, and sorrows to fade, and doors to open…all these things that we cannot affect. And I see the birds hunching down against the cold gray sky, and think how we are like that sometimes– as if we could wall out what hurts and just bend our backs under the weight, hold out till the skies turn blue again.
Maybe this holiday of Thanksgiving comes just at the right time to remind us of what is truly needful. Right when the brilliance of Fall turns dull and bare, and the earth is settling into Winter (right when we could lose a grip on hope… let it blow away with the last of the leaves), there is this reminder that the giving of thanks is still appropriate. The Musician-King sang it thousands of years ago, left his testimony for us: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (Psalm 118:1) It’s all a matter of perspective, and when we look at the right things, this season may be very short after all. “As for man, his days are like grass…the wind blows over it and it is gone….But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children…” (Psalm 103:15-17) Fasten our eyes on what truly lasts, and the present circumstances show up fleeting in the light of eternity.
In many ways, giving thanks is our banner proclaiming allegiance to the King– the way we display our surrender to His will and His timing–even when we are tired of waiting. Giving thanks is a kind of offering laid on the altar of worship, our statement of trust that He is still at work and He is still good. It is an act of obedience, not just emotion. The church-planter Paul told the long-ago believers to “…pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18) But he is just as quick to point out that it is for our own benefit, because when we pour out our hearts in prayer and thanksgiving, “…the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7) Giving thanks is our shield raised against discouragement and resignation, a weapon to beat back the darkness.
Maybe if we raise our heads brave against the wind and spend this season thanks-giving, we will find a joy we had not expected in these circumstances…and there is always hope. “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” (Psalm 27:13-14)
“No matter what we’re facing, there are always only two roads: thanksgiving to God or dismissing of God.” (Ann VosKamp)
“When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord; He brought me into a spacious place. The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? The Lord is with me; He is my helper.” (Psalm 118:5-7)