In a meditation titled “Be Thankful” Rev M Janssens[i] raises the question of whether it’s possible to always be thankful. Paul says somewhere: gives thanks to God in everything. But, asks Rev Janssens, is that expecting too much?
As the Church of the Lord, we’ve just had our annual Thanksgiving Service. It’s a time, says Rev Janssens, to look back on the season that has passed. The question he asks and answers is:
“How did we look back? Undoubtedly in very different ways. Many will have been able to look back with joy. They were healthy. They had work. They were earning well. They could afford a nice holiday. In their families, everything went according to plan. Yes, then it is not difficult to be grateful, thankful to the Lord who made their lives and led them in such a way that they did not lack anything. No, then it is not difficult.”
But then he raises the question of whether it isn’t perhaps more difficult to be thankful in such prosperity. After all, blessings can become so common that we don’t even give a thought to the reality that they are blessings, that we have received them out of grace, that we have no right to them. And if we forget that, then it is indeed difficult to be thankful. Why should we give thanks for things to which we feel we are entitled?
Now, this notion of entitlements or rights is quite prevalent today. Indeed, we can hardly pick up a newspaper or turn to the digital media without reading or hearing about human rights. On the other hand, we read and hear scarcely anything, if at all, about the law of the Lord. And, says Rev Janssens, all this, unfortunately, finds a connection with our evil hearts. He concludes, therefore, that all too often we do not show that thankfulness that ought to characterise us. For that failure, he says, we have reason to be ashamed and repentant before the Lord who gave everything. “The disciples once asked: Lord, teach us to pray. May we always ask: Lord, teach us to give thanks.”
But is it possible to always give thanks? What about all those facing hardships: those who are sick, those who are weak, those who lie in bed or in a chair day after day, those who are in pain, those who would like to work but cannot find work, those whose families have been torn apart by death, those who have little income, and so on? Would it not be difficult, asks Rev Janssens, for them to follow the exhortation: Give thanks to God in everything? In everything? Even in everything we call misfortune but of which the Scriptures say that God works all things for good to those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose? His answer:
“Yes, how beautiful that the Lord says so in His Word. Otherwise, we would look at all this adversity in bewilderment. But now we have been able to see God’s hand in it, the hand of our faithful God. We’ve been able to see that He is our beloved Father for Christ’s sake. He loved us so much that He did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, and He will give us all things with Christ.
All things. So that we are able—whether healthy or sick, strong or weak, young or old, in prosperity or adversity—to serve Him, to be people of God, to make His Name great; not to cry about human rights (what rights would we deserve?) but to sing of the right of Him who has redeemed us, now redeems us and will redeem us.
No, you who are in distress, you may not see a solution, but He does see that solution and one day you will experience it, that is certain. And if you then look back, you too, who in the eyes of people have reason to complain, come to understand by the Spirit of God that you too can give thanks. Laugh through your tears. Sing, perhaps with trembling lips, but nevertheless sing of God’s goodness.”
“Be thankful. Is it possible?” asks Rev Janssens.
His reply: “Yes, through God’s Spirit.
Yes, in everything. The Lord asks it. The Lord grants it.”
[i] Genade Geneest (Grace Heals), de Vuurbaak, Groningen, 1984, pp. 30-31