Written by Sandy McKee
It’s an understatement to say it’s been a difficult 2020. This month we faced a holiday that focuses on gratitude although many weren’t even able to gather with loved ones. Some have coped with quarantine by adopting more healthy lifestyles, but for many, it’s resulted in overeating, anxiety and depression. I’d hoped an outcome of the fears might be a massive return to our Lord and Savior, but I see little evidence of that.
We’ve faced tough Thanksgivings before. The first between the Pilgrims and Wampanoag was a celebration of survival. Only half the Pilgrims made it through the first year. Even though the Natives were pretty kind to the newcomers, the Pilgrims regarded them as savages and heathens, and inflicted disease and enslavement on them. Then during World War II, we had food and gas rationing, loss of lives and unbelievable human suffering. But Americans still found ways to show thanks to God for their blessings.
We’ve certainly come a long way since the 1620s and 1940s, but during these tough times people still joined together, made sacrifices and gave thanks to God.
In 2020, we are a deeply divided nation and church. Having and showing true gratitude might be what saves us. A Methodist church in Virginia has declared this the Year of Gratitude. They have planned many activities such as gratitude journals and sharing thanks at services on a regular basis. Many of their ideas are from a book by church historian Diane Butler. Her book, GRATEFUL: The Transformative Practice of Giving Thanks, defines gratitude as, “kindness in the face of anger, connection in the face of division and hope in the face of fear.”
I hope the idea catches on. Thanks is a major theme of the Bible and the teachings of Jesus. Everything is a gift from God, and as we’re told in Ephesians, “we should always give thanks.” Psychologists say gratitude is healthy, can reduce stress, heighten our immune systems and strengthen our communities.
So, let’s not be shy about sharing our gratitude. Dr. Butler says we shouldn’t hold the poor turkey hostage at our Thanksgiving table by forcing guests to recite what they’re grateful for before dining, but we should seek settings where showing gratitude is welcome. I’ll begin my sharing here: I am flawed and make mistakes and am eternally grateful for God’s forgiveness. I’m even grateful for hard times, because as James tells, they help to build our faith and perseverance. I’m so thankful for God’s grace and that He’s always been there for me. God has granted me joy and peace in the midst of the storms that rage about us. I appreciate home, food and friends more dearly than ever. I’m so grateful for people I gave little thought to before, like medical workers and store clerks.
I’m glad that I can’t make it through a day without talking to the Lord. Remember when God finally responded to Job’s questions as to why his world was falling apart? God told him that many things were beyond his understanding, but that God had it under control. When Paul asked God to remove the “thorn in his side,” God said no, that His grace was sufficient. I do not know what the future holds, but am so glad that our Lord holds the future. And with God, it is good.
Perhaps Thanksgiving 2020 was a kick off to a season of less rampant consumerism and more demonstrations of our gratitude. Maybe we can write notes to those who were unable to attend Thanksgiving dinner and tell them how much they mean to us. Maybe we can reach out to those suffering from pain, isolation or poverty. Maybe we can forgive or seek forgiveness from someone we’ve wronged. Maybe we can jot down things we are grateful for each day and share them with others and God.
Hopefully your 2020 Thanksgiving was one of peace, joy and gratitude. Amen.