I thank God for the mountains,
And I thank Him for the valleys,
I thank Him for the storms
He brought me through;
For if I’d never had a problem
I wouldn’t know that He could solve them,
I’d never know what faith in God could do.
The history of declarations and observances of Thanksgiving in the United States frequently occurred during the nation’s darkest hours. The Continental Congress and George Washington declared thanks be given to Almighty God all through the birth pangs of a nation in the Revolutionary War. In the dim of America’s Civil War when brother killed brother and the very fabric of American society was being torn asunder,
Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation that the country observe Thanksgiving. Franklin Roosevelt, through the gloomy days of the Great Depression and the uncertainty of World War II, called for the people of this beautiful land to give thanks.
From ancient times the Old Testament Psalms encouraged thanksgiving during difficult circumstances. Psalms 116 and 118 are part of six psalms known as the Egyptian Hallel (praise) and were to be sung after Passover. Psalm 116 states that when the pains (or cords) of death surround, the pangs (distresses) of Sheol (the grave) lay hold, trouble and sorrow are found, and you feel helpless, “offer . . . the sacrifice of thanksgiving” (from 116:3, 6, & 17). Again in Psalm 118 the psalmist exhorts “in distress,” surrounded by hostile forces, and pushed violently and about to fall you are to “Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good” (from Psalm 118:5, 10, 13, & 29).
Paul admonished the Thessalonians to give thanks in everything (I Thessalonians 5:18). He did not say “for” everything to give thanks; that would be absurd. The preposition “in” carries the thought of “above” everything, or we might say “in spite of” everything give thanks. This letter was written to a church that was experiencing hard times – “much affliction(s)” (1:6 & 3:3), suffering (2:14), and “tribulation” (3:4). Still, in the vicissitudes of life you are to be a grateful person.
As I reflect on the tough times of life, I am not thankful for my pains, diseases, illnesses, losses, separations, or estrangements. But, I am thankful for all the lessons I have learned; the opportunities to grow in grace and add to my faith virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love (II Peter 1:5-7); and the man I am becoming in Christ Jesus my Lord.
My former professor, Dr. Matt Friedeman, related a story from a lady who called in to his radio talk show. “She said that after she saw what Katrina had done to her house (gone, totally) and her cars (smashed, completely) and her life (changed, absolutely) she said she tried to find a place to rest and could only locate a cardboard box. She flattened it out and laid on it, looked up at the stars in the sky and thanked Jesus. ‘I thanked Him for our life in Waveland, for the chance we had to live in our home, for the friends and family we had. I thanked Him for all He had given us and the time we had to enjoy it. I just…thanked Him.’”
If this Thanksgiving finds you hurting from physical, mental, emotional, financial, and/or social pain; give thanks anyway.