This year, thankfulness comes easy for me. In addition to being blessed with another year with my family, I now have my FaithWorks of Abilene family, as well. For the past six months, things have been falling in to place in ways they have not for several years. I feel God blessing my family and me.
And I am grateful.
Yet, for each of the last four Thanksgivings (including today), people I love are enduring their first Thanksgiving with an empty chair at the table.
A number of my friends are still homeless today. Many of them have been invited to the homes of people throughout town; but many have not. Hopefully, they will find shelter and a warm meal today.
Many people I know are doing everything they can to celebrate today so that their children or other family members can have at least one day of fun in the midst of a life of chaos.
But I am grateful? How can I be? How can I enjoy my time with family today enjoying a wonderful meal in a warm house knowing all those who are suffering today? How can those friends of mine be grateful today when they are experiencing pain and hurt in terrible, tragic ways?
To be honest, there are days when I do not know if I can be grateful. There are days that I do not know if I can encourage someone to be grateful. There are days when I feel guilty for being thankful for what I have while living among those who have not.
How can you be grateful when life is falling apart around you?
The Old Testament prophet Habakkuk speaks to this. As the prophet is lamenting the situation of the nation of Israel, he closes his short book with these lines:
“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,
though there are not sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,
yet will I rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to go on the heights.”
Sometimes, there is absolutely no reason to be thankful. And that is the time we need to be most thankful.
It is in the midst of chaos that God is present. He does not always calm the storm or take the pain away, but He walks with us. The tears may still fall, but God will cry with us.
And I am grateful.