I lean back in my La-z-Boy chair, prop up my feet, turn on the 10 motors in the chair to massage my tired back, and relax. I like football, but I don’t feel like watching a game right now. Carol brings me a cup of coffee with the right amount of milk and sugar. I take a sip, ahhhhhhh, close my eyes, and thank God for the wonderful life He has ….
“Sweetheart. Gene, where are you?”
“Huh … wh … what’d you say?”
“You must have fallen asleep.”
“Yeah … I guess I … was … dreaming.”
Thanksgiving Day is almost here, and I’m in front of the computer where my hand fell on the keyboard. I looked at the screen and saw a page of Js. I deleted them. I looked over to where my La-z-Boy chair is beckoning me in real life.
“The reason I called you – oh, sorry that I had to wake you up – but we got a call from family in California. The fires are raging, and many houses, barns, and businesses have gone up in flames. Are you sure we should go out west?”
I thought back on the dream I was enjoying.
Not many bad things have happened to us, and I’m thankful. But what about my friends and family members? We are mourning for the family whose father and daughter recently drowned. Fires have ravaged multi-thousands of acres and several towns, and tornados have created havoc in many places. How will those whose lives have been turned upside down celebrate? Or can they truthfully celebrate Thanksgiving with the turmoil they’re experiencing?
I thought about the smoke would encounter if we went west. That shouldn’t be too bad, and we probably would not meet up with any flames. At least, I hope not. The smoke is devastating for some folks with bronchial problems, but my allergy pills should help me.
“Precious, I think we should go to our daughter and family south instead of our son and family out west.”
Years ago, two of my sisters lost houses in fires, and some friends are currently without electricity. Friends whose houses were damaged by the twisters are waiting for the repairs or reconstruction to take place. With that in mind, a question hung heavily in my mind, so I asked the Lord. “Father, how can people be thankful in the face of disaster? How can they actually be grateful when so much has been taken from them?”
Then I remembered asking my sister, Jan, how she felt when her house was destroyed. She responded, “Eugene, it’s only stuff. Whatever we want to replace, we can. But it’s only stuff. We’re still alive. That’s what counts.” That was an excellent, mature response.
I asked our friends how they’re doing after the tornado damaged their house. One of them responded, “We’re doing fine. It was hard to sleep afterwards, but it’s only a house. God has taken care of us.” The other said, “We’re doing fine. It’ll get repaired, and we are thankful to the Lord.”
I’ve never heard God speak out loud, but He answered my prayer with the following thoughts.
I give many kinds of blessings, many of them are material. Most people, even those who don’t know Me, are generally happy about what they have. But those who know Me are grateful for our relationship, and they don’t wait for this day of the year to show it. Their gratefulness, their thankfulness, is not based on what they have, but what they are. They are thankful for life. And when their human life is over, they will thank Me face-to-face.
Some time ago, a missionary couple at church told us about a poor family overseas. With barely enough money to buy food, they received a gift of $70. They were excited, but they knew another family who had no food at all. Following God’s leadership, they joyfully gave that $70 to the other family. Their generosity revealed not only a grateful spirit, but a deep, mature relationship with God.
“Precious, I called to see if the repairs on the trailer were complete. It’s almost ready.”
“What if the weather gets stormy?”
“We’ll go without the trailer.”
It isn’t what we have or don’t have that produces joy, and it isn’t whether or not we’ve experienced hardship in life that prompts us to be thankful. What engenders gratefulness is knowing Jesus Who offers us eternal life.
James 1:17 tells us that every good gift comes from God. Let’s express our gratitude to God every day. Let’s be generous to others. And let’s be compassionate and help those who are experiencing hardship and tragedy. Allow God to bless others through you.