Happy Thanksgiving! What do you most like about Thanksgiving? What is least appealing to you about Thanksgiving? Do you have a favorite food or tradition that you enjoy around this holiday? Do you have some fond memories associated with the end of November?
Personally, I like Thanksgiving because it’s a yearly reminder to be thankful. I also like to remember that being thankful isn’t an annual holiday but rather a life-infusing mindset.
But do you ever struggle to be grateful in difficult seasons or challenging situations? How could a person be thankful who has recently been diagnosed with cancer or who lost a loved one, now struggling in the throes of grief? How is it possible to be grateful when there’s more month than money, when you work for a horrific boss or when you have a deep friendship that has gone awry?
Life is full of hardships, and I think that finding gratitude in the midst of hardship can be more than a little challenging. This reminds me of Corrie Ten Boom who was a survivor of a Nazi concentration camp. In her book, “The Hiding Place,” she describes a conversation with her sister, Betsie, related to being thankful for fleas. In this part of the book, Corrie talks about how the fleas in their barracks were horrendous and nothing less than maddening, so much that she couldn’t see any benefit from fleas for which to be thankful.
At one point, Corrie has a gratitude epiphany related to the fleas. She comes to see that the guards in the concentration camp refuse to enter their barracks due to the outrageous flea infestation. Because the guards never came to their barracks, Corrie and Betsie, along with many of the women in their barracks were free to have Bible studies and encourage each other with biblical passages. Had the guards known of these efforts, they would have squashed such encouragements with deadly actions.
From such a realization, Corrie came to be thankful for the fleas because their presence assured the guards absence. So, Corrie thanked God for the fleas in their barracks. From learning about Corrie’s epiphany, I am challenged to find ways to be thankful even in situations that aren’t comfortable nor easy.
In this holiday that celebrates being thankful, let’s take some moments to explore our gratitude beyond the customary season and obvious observations. In the difficult areas in our lives, how can we find gratefulness in these circumstances and experiences? Could we be thankful that God gives us strength for another day or light in our souls in the midst of deep darkness? Could we thank God for helping us to keep our focus on God’s lovingkindness more than pressures and uncertainties in our lives? Could we thank God for giving us favor or time to take a walk? Is it possible that we could thank God for building up strength and endurance as a result of going through difficulties and struggles?
In finishing this blog post, I’ve become grateful that I’ve learned to roast a turkey for Thanksgiving, after countless failures and disasters. Each time that I messed up roasting a turkey for this auspicious holiday, I learned new things such that my cumulative learning has empowered me to roast a fairly edible and sometimes tasty turkey. Happy Thanksgiving!