“In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
And so the strangest thanksgiving time comes. Many of us are grieving how splintered things are. My own daughter Hannah was exposed to someone positive for the virus and so needs to stay in Indiana and sit alone on a grand family day. This pales in comparison to the hundreds of thousands of families who have lost a loved one, and millions who are worried for those who are sick.
The looming question that is the elephant in the room is how in the world, in this world right now can we authentically tend to the will of God and give thanks?
Well,, one way to begin is to notice that this text doesn’t use the word FOR, but IN. That’s a big difference. The “IN” encourages us to consider our options just now. The first choice we have is to sink into our bitterness and fears, find our victimized identity, and wail away at God in this time of scarcity. The second choice is to locate in the scarcity a more pristine gratitude, strained clear as we reflect on all that we have and experience normally, even though not now. Health and strength, community, abundance, joy, family and friends, school and work, travel and adventure….this list is large!
I was reminded of the power I have to choose to give thanks (or not) when a friend said to me on the phone yesterday, “It’s strange. This thanksgiving, as difficult as it is, I find myself feeling more grateful, because I have a chance to reflect on all I take for granted.”
And choosing thanks is in no way a denial of the need for honest lament. In fact, lament, as we find it in the psalms, lays out complaints and questions, but does so along side the language of faith… “But you are with me”….”you are my my rock and my refuge”…in other words, lament itself expresses gratitude for God’s presence and promises.
And this, in the end, is what really matters, whatever the tyranny of the urgent happens to be. God is with us. God will see us through this. The future is bright, though the present is bleak. I’m inviting you as I am trying to keep the faith, and to give thanks, even now, especially now. Take some time to reflect and choose gratitude! Choose the “IN” and not the “FOR”.