Thankful for "Every Circumstance?"
Daniel Ra, Alumni Council Member
Truthfully, my natural impulse during the Thanksgiving season is to count the material, experiential, and relational wealth that I accumulated over the year. My list for 2011 would instantly include: marrying the love of my life, finding a full-time paying job, and recently listening to the heartbeat of our first child-to-be—a worthy list. In contrast, five years ago I might have been reticent to play this game of “count your blessings” while my father was losing his bout with stage four liver cancer.
I find it intriguing that this same impulse unfolds whenever I read the latest newspaper or even my daily Facebook newsfeed. The responses to individuals’ “every circumstance” change like the ocean tide—cursing Wall Street one day, glad that their portfolio is back up the next; angry at how difficult life is one moment; happily posting pictures of indulgent food or fantastic vacations the next.
Reading Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians provides remedy for the “circumstantial schizophrenia” that leaves many floundering for a reason to be grateful, or at least to remain grateful for longer than a tweet.
In the midst of fierce opposition, persecution, and even death, Paul commends the Thessalonian church for its “endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1:3). He reminds the reader of this ultimate hope that “[Christ] died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him” (5:10). And follows with that well-known exhortation: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (5:16-18).
The real power of thanksgiving does not find its source in the satisfaction (or relief) over what I possess at any particular moment, but being anchored in the constancy of grace, knowing that whether I am awake or asleep, I am with Christ! Therefore, I am able to give thanks, not only in every circumstance, but also regardless of the circumstance. Happy Thanksgiving!
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