Thanksgiving is over. The holiday that is. Many churches do something special for this American Holiday, but it’s not a uniquely Christian holiday. It does, however, remind us of an organic Christian attitude – being thankful.
Few things will change our lives more than developing an attitude of gratitude. “Developing” is a key word. None of us is naturally thankful. Or am I the only one? We have to choose to practice being thankful. Our entitlement attitude repels being thankful. I have a right to this or that, to be treated kindly, not to go through this! Really? Everything we are or have is a gift. The air we breathe, being able to see, hear, talk, think, are all gifts.
This morning’s devotional reading (in New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp, November 30) reminded me, none of us lives independently. We’re all who we are because people have touched our lives. Not all encounters with people who made us better were pleasant. Some were. Others were not. We often become better people through other’s corrections, even rebukes. Sometimes we’ve improved through something we now regret. At times those experiences that made me a better person were plainly painful. Nonetheless, I’m thankful, for how God’s grace can reroute these experiences for our good.
Perhaps that’s what the Apostle Paul had in mind when he wrote in the New Testament letter to the Thessalonians: “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (1Thessalonians 5:18). God’s will? To be thankful in ALL circumstances? Maybe those words were intended to guide us to a reflective look backwards. When we see how the good and bad have actually benefitted us, we may be thankful. Our shaping, growing and deepening rarely comes only from good. Some of the wisest, most extraordinary people I have known, have come to a gratitude attitude through a valley of what most people would call bad.
I got to know Doug Nix in a church I served as pastor. Doug was an extraordinary person. He had a wonderful, supportive wife and two little, full-of-life boys. Doug was a former scuba diving instructor. When I met him he was bound to a wheelchair with severe Multiple Sclerosis. Slowly, over the years, that unrelenting illness tightened its grip on his life. It stole his freedom of movement, dimmed his eyesight, weakened his voice. Eventually it took his life. Yet, Doug told me soon after I met him that his “life verse” from the Bible was, “I will glory in my infirmities” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Many times God brought to mind Doug’s life verse, quoted so boldly in his affliction. While feeling sorry for myself over a sinus infection, a sore shoulder, or an asthma flare-up, his words put my issues in perspective.
I’m thankful for Doug’s life-sized, gratitude attitude. His thankfulness, in his circumstances, inspired and challenged me. Thank you, Doug! You taught me how good gratitude is.