When It's Hard to Be Thankful

Paul E. Rondeau
November 25, 2011
Reproduced with Permission

Henry Ward Beecher wrote, "The unthankful heart... discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings!" This Thanksgiving it will be hard for many to find the shavings of iron in our lives.

After all, when we look around we see "lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, ungrateful, and unholy people"[1] filling high offices while sitting in fancy homes and mocking our faith. They feign noble goals and concern for the common good, when by cunning and deceit they prosper. In their own minds they magnify themselves and destroy many innocents under deceitful banners like choice and rights. Our righteous toil seems to make no difference.[2] It is easy to be overcome and appalled, to not understand it.

How can we be thankful when this year we lost a daughter, a mother, a sister, or a wife? Or if we lost a son, a father, a brother, or a husband long ago and "joyous holidays" are merely a sad reminder rather than a celebration?[3]

Is "lost" even the right word? Those of us who have "lost" someone know that it is often just a word we use so we do not make others uncomfortable, while in our hearts we grieve a violent or senseless death or a cruel disease - an aftermath that leaves a gaping hole so large that to carry on seems beyond our endurance. And "lost" my job does little to express the ripples of losing our home, the ability to care for our family, and our self esteem.

And this is when we can lose our way - because we have forgotten that none of this is news to God.

He told those who serve Him to prepare for trials, to be sincere of heart and steadfast, and to not be rash in times of adversity. He told us that if we cling to Him and do not leave Him, we will prosper in our last days. He promised that if we can accept whatever happens and be patient - even in periods of humiliation[4] - our trust in Him will be ultimately rewarded with the benefits of God's mercy and of lasting joy.

Our Lord does not speak of iron, but of gold, for us: "For in fire gold is tested, and the chosen, in the crucible of humiliation." For this, we should certainly be thankful. But somehow, today we cannot.

Yes, we do our best not to complain. We recognize that so many others have far harsher burdens. Yet, try as we might, we find ourselves in a state where it still seems impossible to "give thanks in all circumstances."[5]

But God did not abandon His people in the desert even when they were dismayed, abandoned Him, and turned back to Baal. God did not abandon Peter even after he denied His son, our Lord and Savior, three times. In fact, God tells us, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."[6]

So, even if we cannot thank God for His blessings and grace today, we know that He will wait and welcome us on that day when we can. And for that, we can be truly thankful - even when it's hard to be thankful today.