Changed by Thankfulness

Changed by Thankfulness

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Friday I began seeing 30 Days of Thankfulness posts pop up all over my Facebook newsfeed. This is now a thing. Social networks started a holiday tradition that's becoming a widely accepted part of celebrating Thanksgiving. I love the idea of stretching out the thankfulness over the whole month of November, because I think something unique happens when we fix our minds on being grateful for an extended period of time. By the actual Thanksgiving holiday, maybe it'll have sunk down into our hearts deeply enough that we'll be different people.

It has also been funny watching my friends who didn't remember to start on Friday and who have been catching up by being double or triply thankful over the weekend. To their credit, I didn't get started at all, so I will content myself with vicariously participating in their online thankfulness this November.

I am also learning what people are not thankful for. For one thing, I know my young parent friends are not thankful for the return to Standard Time here in most of the U.S., because that's what they were posting about. (For those uninitiated, falling back one hour, while it used to mean a glorious extra hour of sleep, now means that anyone younger than 4 years old has a good chance of just waking up an hour early, which feels like a particularly bad joke on Mom and Dad.)

On Sunday my pastor kicked off a four-week sermon series on thankfulness. He recounted an experience he'd had in Israel, watching Sabbath fall by the Wailing Wall. Despite the country being in the midst of a particularly volatile stretch, with SCUD missiles being lobbed over the West Bank, faithful Jews were rejoicing with all their hearts. (Check out this clip, where they're simply anticipating the soon arrival of the Sabbath.) It made him weep. His tour guide's commentary made him weep more: "They are celebrating. Sometimes it is just good to thank God."

Sometimes it is just good to thank God. Even when there are missiles flying over your head. 

That gave me pause. It would be awfully strange to see posts where people expressed thankfulness for a huge fight they had with their fiance, the unexpected repair they had to make on their car, or the burglar who broke into their house. We just don't do that. (Although one woman in my church recently floored me by starting a blog called Thank God for My Cancer.) 

But what if we did do that? What if we spent this November thanking God for the things that hurt? The things we don't understand? The missiles flying over our heads? 

That's my challenge to myself: each day to spend a few minutes talking to God and being thankful for something hard or confusing. These are the things that weigh me down. These are the places where I close myself off. So these are the places where I most need His transformational presence. I probably won't write about them on Facebook — certainly not every day — but I look forward to seeing how God changes me through a new kind of thanksgiving. 

How are you focusing on being grateful this Thanksgiving season? 

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  • --"What if we spent this November thanking God for the things that hurt?"

    Well, that is what many call masochism. The key is not to be thankful FOR the suffering but to be thankful THROUGH the suffering. We should thank God for His provisions that get us through the hard times. For months now, I have been going through some nasty times, and I would change them if I had the power, but I do not enjoy being weak and helpless. But I am thankful that God has (through humbling means) prospered me and sustained me so far.

  • --I cannot be thankful for difficult events, especially evil events because that would be like calling evil "good," but I can be thankful for any good that comes out of those events.

  • --This is a sound and appropriate idea, and I might suggest that the readers look up "The Crook in the Lot" by Thomas Boston for additional reading on the exposition of the simple idea that the saint is marked by his perseverance, and trials and challenges are given to us by God to temper us and prepare us.  Consider the starting point for his discourse, Ecclesiastes chapter 17, verse 13: 'Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight, which he hath made crooked'.

    Suffering is designed to bring us closer to God, but God-appointed suffering does not end until we have learned the lesson. We should ask God to explain to us and make plain what we are to learn and to help us to grow in the way he has appointed to us. We are told that the Father chastises those whom he loves; therefore, we should praise God in his chastisement of us, and we should ask for the wisdom to understand the lesson and the grace to get us through our obstinance as we must endure to learn the lesson.

    Persevering in our own suffering teaches us empathy, a trait that the natural human lacks, and prepares us to present the gospel to others in their own suffering. It's very popular to talk about "authenticity" these days, but nothing is more authentic in presenting the gospel to someone in the crucible than the witness of someone who has thrown his whole self on the cross of Jesus Christ in his own hour of trial.

  • --I really don't think that you can be thankful for bad things.  You can be thankful that God redeems bad things and uses them for his good.  Jesus being crucified was a bad thing, but it was used to redeem humanity.

    Saying you are thankful for bad things sort of denies the reality of how painful those things are.  As Christians we want to acknowledge that sin and pain and evil and Satan are real.  It's not just an illusion of state of mind like many Eastern philosophies teach.  Now only that we should allow people to express painful emotions provided that don't sin in expressing them.  The Bible tells us to mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15).  We're not here to tell them to pull up thier bootstraps and make their own way.

  • I think Lindy is doing just fine with her thought process regarding giving thanks!  God's word says to give thanks in all things.  It is difficult to give thanks for the thorns in our side, the challenges, the pain.  However, I have found that in surrendering before our all loving and wise Father, by giving thanks and expressing my trust, that He brings me to a better place. No, I don't have to love or enjoy tragedy, but when I experience it and thank Him, I am able to walk through it differently, with Him.  Thanks for sharing, Lindy, you are a blessing to many.

  • --I’ve been keeping a gratitude journal lately. I’ve found that recording it has helped me be more grateful because I can review things and remember them and how blessed I am.

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