This has been some year. Between the devastating and deadly effects of COVID-19, the chaotic political situation, the presence of armed mobs springing up prepared to fight fellow Americans in the name of political differences, and adding to all this the increased destruction from fires, floods and hurricanes ~ many people are stressed almost to the breaking point. Because of the first COVID lock-down many find themselves without jobs, or with decreased income. The current secondary surge in virus cases will cost many more lives unless we can quickly produce and distribute an effective and safe vaccine. Many people are facing the reality of Thanksgiving and Christmas in isolation because travel is too risky for loved ones living far away. People are going stir-crazy because they are not used to living and working alone. The list goes on and on. What is there to be thankful about?
I feel a little like the heroine in the child’s book Pollyanna, searching to find positive things in the middle of so many negatives, but God never leaves us without hope.
Feeling thankful in these days has a twist. When many are facing eviction or finding it hard to meet their bills, it seems insensitive to say I am grateful that I still have a roof over my head and enough income to survive. When there have been over 250,000 deaths from COVID in this country alone, it seems selfish to be glad that none of my family has yet developed the virus. I can’t be completely happy for myself when so many others are hurting. If there is such a thing as compassion or empathy, we will all be feeling pain along with our neighbors, as well as relief if we have not yet felt their same loss. This is not comfortable. However, I can be very thankful for the courage and dedication of those on the front line of the virus: those hospital workers who face the imminent danger of infection yet who stay at their post and take the risk in order to do what they are trained to do. I can also be thankful for people like the trash collectors, the postal workers who continue to keep mail flowing, truck drivers who haul goods and food long distances and who may encounter the virus in any of their truck stops. I can be thankful for those working in warehouses who continue to ship goods, for those in offices keeping the paper work flowing, for clerks in retail stores who face the public each day, never knowing what lies behind that mask. I can be thankful for scientists working overtime to find a vaccine, and all those in every other field which has an impact on the situation. I am thankful for good people.
I am thankful for technology. Although I am high risk and told to stay away from groups,
I can still attend church via Zoom. I can see loved faces and hear familiar voices and sing along with the hymns, even though I am a chorus of one sitting in my living room. I can still see my children by way of FaceTime and Skype, and know that they are safe and hear about how they are coping with the situation in their towns. I can watch endless reruns of old movies or favorite TV shows on my computer, and I have countless books available to me via Kindle. I have enjoyed the pleasure of resurrecting old hobbies like knitting, and find pleasure in looking through my collection of ancient cookbooks and trying out long abandoned favorites; discovering that they are still delicious. I have unlimited time for prayer and studying my Bible or reading books by theologians which challenge me to deeper faith.
However, although I may not be able to find many reasons for thankfulness in present circumstances, I can still have the joy of the Lord in things that go further and deeper than the present.
God is still the same as He has always been. If this is His way of reminding us that man is not in charge, we need to be listening. He is still there and willing to be our refuge in our pain, our comforter in our loss, and our strength as we face difficult futures. We are not the first people to have faced terrible circumstances and uncertain futures. We celebrate Thanksgiving in memory of a handful of survivors of a difficult struggle in a new land, facing many threats to their continuing survival. What does not kill us makes us stronger ~ this has been true in life since man was created. Our strength comes from God, as does every other good gift. I am thankful for this.
I am thankful that I know Who holds the future. I am thankful that God so loved the world… I am thankful to know that every good and perfect gift comes from above, and that no matter what the circumstances, God’s love for us never changes and that in His time it will all come right, whether on this side of heaven or not.
Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands.
Serve the Lord with gladness;
Come before His presence with singing.
Know that the Lord, He is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
and into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him and bless His name,
For the Lord is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
and His truth endures to all generations.