Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Giving thanks, no matter what

For the past week I have been about the important tasks of connecting with family and giving thanks.

The first task proved to be easier than the second.

Events in the past week forcefully reminded me that giving thanks is not the same as feeling satisfied that all is as it should be.

It was a bit difficult to give thanks when my deer-damaged car wasn't repaired in time for the drive to Atlanta. How can you be grateful when your plans are frustrated?

It was harder to give thanks when I discovered six inches of water in my basement. How can you be grateful while throwing out ruined possessions and wading in filth?

Hardest of all was the funeral of a teenager who died on Thanksgiving Day. How could anyone even think of giving thanks in that situation? How is it possible?

It's possible because gratitude does not depend on our feelings of contentment. It doesn't require us to approve of what is happening. Instead, it is the willingness to let go of our annoyance or anger or even grief, if only for a moment. It is the deep, healing breath that cuts through our gasps of desperation.

It is the acknowledgement that our pain or inconvenience is not the sum total of reality. There is more, and it is good. Otherwise we wouldn't feel the losses so keenly. The change in travel plans grates because I know the loving welcome that awaits me at my destination. The flooded basement annoys because it is the literal foundation of that special place called home. The death of a promising young man is agonizing to those who know him or his parents because he brought such light to the world. Because he loved and was loved.

Here's a paradox: We can be grateful because of the very things that make gratitude more difficult. Because they are precious, their loss hurts. But because they are precious, they are gifts for which we can truly and sincerely give thanks.

What do you think? Is it important to give thanks even when it seems more reasonable to complain?

26 comments:

Nick said...

It is not only possible but commanded. We are not told to like everything that happens. We are told though to trust in God despite everything that happens.

D.J. said...

We can give thanks in all situations, for whatever we may lose, we can never lose what is most important - Christ.

"For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." - Romans 8:38-39

We should treasure Christ above all else - Scripture portrays Christ as a treasure which we would gladly and joyfully sell everything we have to own (Matthew 13:44). When we have that high view of Christ, then whatever may befall us, Christ remains, and that is enough. Heartbreak and sadness still come, but the joy of God runs deeper.

Soli Deo Gloria

Anonymous said...

There is a story about the TenBoom sisters (two Dutch Christian women who helped hide Jews and smuggle them out during the Nazi occupation) after they were caught and sent to a camp. As they were settling down in their barraks, they started to give thanks--that they were still alive, that they were still together, that the guards had missed their Bibles when they searched their bundles, etc. The one sister said, "Thank you, God for the fleas. . ." The other said that she could not bring herself to say that, but the first said, "The Bible says 'all circumstances'." Later, after they had started to hold Bible studies and prayer services for their fellow-prisoners, they found reason to be thankful for the fleas--because of them the guards never went into the barraks if they could help it, which meant that the sisters could get away with what they were doing for a long time.

Anonymous said...

"We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here." (Richard Dawkins)

Yes I am grateful that I will die one day.

Sincerely,
Iztok

Anonymous said...

I am grateful that (for now!) we still have secular laws in this country.

Teacher charged in teddy bear case

I guess US Christian groups are not to be outdone here with all the focus on Golden Compass.

So what I am grateful for? To Americas founding fathers (mostly deists) who were wise enough to separate state from religion. I am grateful to 1st amendment and freedom of and from religion.

Sincerely,
Rev. Iztok

D.J. said...

Iztok,

"So what I am grateful for? To Americas founding fathers (mostly deists) who were wise enough to separate state from religion. I am grateful to 1st amendment and freedom of and from religion."

I actually agree with everything in that paragraph (the idea of church/state separation has long been a hallmark of Baptists - see Roger Williams) save part of your final phrase. Where does the First Amendment say anything about freedom from religion?

Soli Deo Gloria

Anonymous said...

DJ, as someone said it better then me:

Freedom from religion does not mean, as some mistakenly seem to claim, being free from seeing religion in society. No one has the right not to see churches, religious expression, and other examples of religious belief in our nation — and those who advocate freedom of religion do not claim otherwise.

What freedom from religion does mean, however, is the freedom from the rules and dogmas of other people’s religious beliefs so that we can be free to follow the demands of our own conscience, whether they take a religious form or not. Thus, we have both freedom of religion and freedom from religion because they are two sides of the same coin.

Interestingly, the misunderstandings here can be found in many other myths, misconceptions and misunderstandings as well. Many people don’t realize — or don’t care — that real religious liberty must exist for everyone, not just for themselves. It’s no coincidence that people who object to the principle of “freedom from religion” are adherents of religious groups whose doctrines or standards would be the ones enforced by the state.

Since they already voluntarily accept these doctrines or standards, they don’t expect to experience any conflicts with state enforcement or endorsement. What we have, then, is a failure of moral imagination: these people are unable to really imagine themselves in the shoes of religious minorities who don’t voluntarily accept these doctrines or standards and, hence, experience an infringement on their religious liberties through state enforcement or endorsement.

That, or they simply don’t care what religious minorities experience because they think they have the One True Religion.

Sincerely,
Rev. Iztok

Anonymous said...

i am thankful for having 3 healthy children and 1 of those in college.i am grateful for a full time job with benefits. i am grateful for a wonderful preacher and church family.

Nick said...

Could I have references that show most of the founding fathers were deists? I'd like to see them.

And we don't have freedom from religion but of religion. Separation of church and state rightly understood is a Christian idea. The individualism we enjoy today is rooted in Christian teachings.

Anonymous said...

Nick,

re: Founding fathers being deists. Just do your research, you will see it yourself.

re: Freedom of religion... please read what I've posted before. It implies freedom from religion as there is no way around it.

Plus, just check the authors of the constitution and amendments and their religious orientation and it will be clear that they were deists. If "freedom of religion" was Christian thing then we would see such secular constitution in other Christian countries yet we fail to see it where Christianity is official religion of that country. So there goes your argument, don't you think?

Sincerely,
Rev. Iztok

pornstudent said...
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pornstudent said...

At times much of what is happening in life sucks and it really is depressing. But there's no need to find a good, a silver lining, God's purpose. I don't like to force a feeling that I don't have. It's not real. I'd rather surrender to what is real than make excuses for it.

When I notice my blood pressure is up, my hands sweating, confusion, depression, and I want to be more relaxed and happier, I take some deep breaths and look at the BIG picture.

pornstudent said...

I was off topic a bit.

I don't think it is important to give thanks when it is more reasonable to complain.

D.J. said...

!Gasp! I'm actually siding with Iztok!

Nick, most of the founding fathers were deists. One can make a decent case that Washington became a Christian late in life (Lincoln is similar), but the best example of a Christian in early American politcal life was probably Andrew Jackson. I'd recommend a book by Marvin Olasky, "The American Leadership Tradition" - a Christian doing a pretty good and fair evaluation of the faith of many of our great leaders.

State religion is a really bad idea (see medieval Rome), and as I said, you've got early Baptists like Roger Williams largely to thank for the idea of separation - though I would posit that separation has been reinterpreted by many to exclude any expression of religion from public life.

Soli Deo Gloria

Danbo020759 said...
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Danbo020759 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Danbo020759 said...

Yes, it is easy to give thanks for good times, harder to give thanks in poor times. But just as evil exists that mankind might be the better for it, the bad times exist that we may cherish and give thanks for those times when things are going well!

The faithful don't fear death. They see it as a continuance. Those who have no faith see it as the end.

Personally, I don't fear "death." But "dying" I'm not too crazy about! LOL.

For those interested in a discussion of the death penalty from a Catholic perspective, please visit my fledgling blog at

http://danbo020759.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

DJ,

I guess it must be my new ordainment that got to you to agree with me ;)

j/k

Rev. Iztok

Anonymous said...

Danbo,

"The faithful don't fear death. They see it as a continuance. Those who have no faith see it as the end."

What did you try to say here?

While most of us w/o faith see death as the end does not imply that we fear death. We see it as part of life. As mentioned, most of us are considering the fact that we are going to die as a good thing as this means we are alive (against all odds).

We enjoy our life as it is the only one we get and value it. For us this is all there is, we don't have anything to look forward to once we die so we cherish this life more. (i.e. we are not looking forward to 72 virgins or heaven as religious people do)

But again, this doesn't mean we are fearing of dying. We however don't see any value in martyrdom at all. Hence we are not interested in suffering in our lifetime.

Sincerely,

Rev. Iztok

Danbo020759 said...

Rev. Iztok said, "We however don't see any value in martyrdom at all."

How sad for you.

Is there, indeed, no value to stepping in front of a bullet meant for your child? Your spouse? Your neighbor? Your friend? A stranger?

A martyr dies for what he/she believes in. I believe in love. I believe in love of my child, my wife, my neighbor, my friend, a stranger.

God is love. Belief in love is belief in God.

I also must state that I believe your use of the tagline "Rev. Iztok" is in poor taste.

Danbo020759 said...

Rev. Iztok wrote, "Hence we are not interested in suffering in our lifetime."

Is that your personal suffereing, the suffering of others, or both.

The rich man in Lk 16:19-31 wasn't interested in suffering in this lifetime either. Now he suffers eternally.

For your own good, Iztok, turn to God now. Not for my sake, but for that of your eternal soul.

Nick said...

Iztok.

You tell me to do my research. However, it is you who have made the claim. Could you point me to the reference work you've checked on them?

I mean, you could be right for all I know. I just see a lot of people saying this and I'd like to see it backed.

Btw, even those who we would be the most suspicious of found great emphasis in teaching the Christian religion. Check the Federalist Papers and when religion is mentioned, the stance is quite clear.

Also, when the Constitution was written, five states already had state churches. Hardly a secular society. (Btw, the term secular is actually a Christian term)

D.J. said...

Well, Iztok, the agreement could only last so long :)

"As mentioned, most of us are considering the fact that we are going to die as a good thing as this means we are alive (against all odds)."

This reasoning seems quite flawed. Could one not say using the same logic, "We consider being mercilessly tortured as a good thing as this means we are alive (against all odds)." Doesn't make much sense, especially considering your remarks about not liking suffering in this life, but it flows from the exact same logical reasoning.

Soli Deo Gloria

Anonymous said...

DJ,

no that is not the same thing. Death is inevitable part of life while torture is not. Basically saying is that you can't have life w/o death nor you can't have death w/o life. So from the logical perspective they are equivalent thing.

For the person who complained about me putting "Rev." in front of my name. Why do you find it bad? After all I am ordained (and legally can perform weddings in NC etc...)

Sincerely,
Iztok

Danbo020759 said...

Iztok wrote, "For the person who complained about me putting "Rev." in front of my name. Why do you find it bad? After all I am ordained (and legally can perform weddings in NC etc...)"

Well, I guess I'd need to know in which church you are ordained before answering that question.

Edie said...

I think I agree with Pornstudent more than Nick. I don't care if it's 'commanded'; you can't force thanks.

I give thanks for so many things because it could always be worse. I'm grateful that although we have a lot of debt because we started our own business that we didn't go bankrupt and we still have our house. I'm thankful that although my daughter was diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes, it wasn't a malignant tumor. Even though I'm still grieving for my mom who passed away last year I'm so thankful that I had her all these years. So many people lost their moms when they were much younger. Since we have family that live in war zones, I'm thankful my children can go to school without walking through hostile territory, having their backpacks searched by soldiers or being turned back at the whim of a pimple-faced soldier on exam day.

I'm thankful that even though my husband grew up in a refugee camp halfway around the world, he was brought into my life to be my soulmate.

And now I'm thankful there's an office waiting for me to clean out (OK, not really. It's times like this I agree with Pornstudent.)