We will never forget 2020. The year of the Great COVID-19 Pandemic and one of the most intense presidential elections in our memories. There has been the heartache of over a quarter of a million deaths. (Just last week, the first person I knew died of the virus.) There has been months of cancelled plans and the disappointment accompanying them. There have been severe economic consequences for many. We have been thrown out of our normal routines and many of us have struggled with that. There has also been rampant complaining about wearing masks and not wearing masks. About state governments enacting too many restrictions or not enough. By any measure, 2020 has been a rough and challenging year.
So, as we celebrate our national day of Thanksgiving tomorrow, still in the midst of practically all of these markers of 2020, I am reminded of Paul’s words to the believers in Thessalonica:
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (I Thessalonians 5:16-18)
You will notice he does not say to give thanks FOR all circumstances, but IN all circumstances. There is a huge difference, but sometimes I think we unintentionally interpret his words as commanding us to give thanks for the bad things that happen. We can feel guilty about being less than thrilled at circumstances imposed upon us, whether it is a cancer diagnosis, the death of someone dear to us, a lost job, betrayal by a friend or colleague, our beloved candidate’s loss in an election, or finding ourselves living in the midst of a pandemic. It is okay not to be thrilled by any of these things or a myriad of other troubles in life. We’re human. We have emotions. I do not think the Lord expects us to be jumping up and down with thanksgiving for the troubles we experience, particularly in the time they are happening.
He does, however, desire us to continue to express gratitude to him for all that we do have. Regardless of our circumstances, there are still things for which we can be grateful. I know a woman who is battling cancer that expresses her gratitude for what she does have—hope in the Lord, a loving husband, a beautiful son, and faithful friends who pray for her and encourage her.
Even in the darkest of times, there is still space for gratitude. It may be for our health, for friends, for a spouse, for a job, for unexpected provision when we have found ourselves coming up short, for a word of encouragement, for an answered prayer, or something else that we have received or experienced. This is God’s will for us—to be people of gratitude regardless of our circumstances.
This Thanksgiving, and, really, every day, let us look upon our lives with gratitude regardless of what we have experienced or are experiencing. At the very least, let us be grateful for the Lord’s grace and mercy towards us, because we didn’t earn it nor do we deserve it. That remains true regardless of what happens in our lives.
© Jim Musser 2020 All Scripture references are from the New International Version, 2011.