There are many people in our country and the world today that are suffering. The pain, fear,and loss they are facing leaves little room to be thankful.
Here I am, looking forward to the arrival of some of our children, grandchildren and friends tomorrow. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because I enjoy the family gathering, the food, and the focus on being thankful.
Yet I know many are not blessed the way I am. Recently, friends from church lost their college aged son in a tragic accident. A school bus crashed this week causing the loss of five young children. What is there to be thankful for in these situations?
A dear young mother recently shared in our women’s Bible study group that she was dealing with reconciling the fact that –
God is good,
God is faithful,
Yet the pain of the loss of seemingly senseless death lingers.
We are studying Ezekiel, a challenging book heavy with judgement. Yet this young mother shared that she felt challenged by the following verse. Ezekiel 36:26 –
26 And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.
“Do the situations around me cause me to harden my heart, or soften my heart?”
When my young friend said this – I realized – that is the challenge for me as well.
Will I allow situations around me, and personal suffering to harden my heart? Will I allow God to give me a new, tender heart that is able to see and feel His presence in the midst of suffering?
We have much to be thankful for, yet the suffering some face is very real.
The book Defiant Joy, the Remarkable Life and Impact of G.K.Chesterton by Kevin Belmonte recounts that during a period of utter despair, Chesterton “was filled with both an enormous sense of thankfulness, and an enormous need for someone or something to thank.” (p. 218) This insight caused Chesterton to embrace Christianity. He went on to become a critic and writer that greatly influenced the lives of C.S.Lewis among countless others. “The test of all happiness” he wrote, “is gratitude; and I felt grateful.” (p. 221) The defining quality of his life as described by his contemporaries was JOY. Thankfulness leads to joy.
Notice that it was “during a period of utter despair” that Chesterton came to the point of recognizing his need for God. He had a change of heart.
As we gather this Thanksgiving, let us remember to pray for those throughout the world who are suffering in loss and fear.
Pray that we would have tender, thankful hearts to experience God’s faithfulness and love in the midst of all we face.