Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So, let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. (James 1:2-4)
While Canadians killed the fatted gobbler this past weekend in celebration of their thankfulness for all that is good in their lives, I feel compelled to ruin the good cheer like a nasty Chinook wind. I know it’s not very Christian of me, but I cannot be silent. As I reflect on the delight of past Thanksgivings, my mood only darkens.
For this reason, my grinch-like disposition is both justified and long overdue.
You might think Thanksgiving is the day to reflect on the immeasurable value of having loved ones or the many blessings God has bestowed on you. Perhaps your life is full of the rich and happy memories of days gone by and bucketsful of hope and promise for the days ahead. While all that might be true, I am here to make a sober declaration:
You have nothing to be thankful for.
Your gratitude is misplaced. The satisfied smiles at your dinner table today are unwarranted. Just stop living the lie.
Perhaps you find my declaration repugnant. You might be asking yourself, “What’s got his seasonal knickers in such a knot?”
Am I about to launch into a “not everyone’s having a thankful day” rant? Not as such. You might think I’m about to give you the old “we should be thankful every day, not just today” spiel. Pft. Come on, that’s so last decade. You might even think I’m about to rail on the commercialization of a weekend that once meant something deeper. Look, folks, all that might be true, but none of these are the source of my ire.
Today, I make war on the obligation we place on being thankful itself.
What do you have to be thankful for, really? Family? Please. What did they ever do for you? Give you a life full of love and a future? Overrated, if you ask me.
You say you’re thankful for the roof over your head? Come on. You act like someone gave you that roof and you didn’t have to work 20 plus years to be able to pay it off yourself.
Cars and furniture and cell phones all break and fall apart. Friends come and go like Internet fads. Face the music; being thankful is just plain silly, when you think about it.
The truth is that you are not obligated to be thankful for anything at all. If life has only brought you misery, then misery is all you’re truly obligated to, so why not get past the delusion of it all and accept your lot in life, right?
Unless you think joy and contentment might be something worth having.
I mention this because when you walk through the sea of people at Walmart or Best Buy in the weeks ahead leading up to Christmas shopping, looking at all the stressed, angry, bloodthirsty faces, you might be convinced that no one wants contentment. Perhaps that’s because it doesn’t appear to be on the shelves at 75% off.
Contentment and joy are not products we buy. They’re also not something we experience because of our blessings; they are a choice we make regardless of our blessings. We can choose joy in the middle of financial hard times. We can grasp contentment during emotional turmoil. Thankfulness is not an obligated feeling we have once a year.
You want an amazing deal this holiday season? You won’t find it on the shelves, but it does happen to be totally FREE! It’s called joy and all you have to do to get it is choose to have it.
If joy is what you long for, then count everything in your life––good and bad––as something to be thankful for.
Maybe you find that hard to accept. Some people have experienced a lifetime of misery and loss and immeasurable pain. Are they supposed to “count it all joy,” too? I mean, why would they?
Because difficulty comes with its own reward. Don’t get me wrong; I am not saying that people should seek struggle or heartache. I am not even saying that people should feel joyful about their hardships. I am saying that people should be joyful because of what hardships can lead to. They can lead to wisdom. They can lead to future strength. They can lead to a greater compassion for what others are going through. In short, difficulties have a way of bringing a more fulfilling life than comfort ever will.
So, you ate the bird. Laughed with the folks and the kids. You don’t have anything to be thankful for. In other words, you are not OBLIGATED to be thankful.
But if you’re going to be thankful, don’t limit it to only the good stuff. Be thankful in ALL things, believing that God has a way of taking what was intended for evil and working it out for good.
Some have said that peace is the most elusive treasure in all the world. It's so hard to find. Some believe it's an illusion. Others feel it is temporary and beyond our control. But the words of God paint a different picture about finding true peace.