Thanksgiving 2001, a light began shining in the darkness of my life. I was living in Newberg, Oregon after graduating from George Fox University and was in the midst of a season of depression like I have never experienced before or since. I had no idea where I belonged in the world or what to do with my life. Every door seemed to be sealed. My path was shrouded with the darkness of night and I could find nothing to be thankful for.
The message at dear Newberg Friends Church that Thanksgiving Sunday began something in me that has continued to this day…the revelation that gratitude is the key to joy. The premise was that an attitude of entitlement crushes joy; forsaking gratitude leads to darkness of soul.
The text was from 1 Chronicles 29:10-14 (ESV).
“Therefore David blessed the Lord in the presence of all the assembly. And David said: ‘Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of Israel our father, forever and ever. Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name.
But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you.’”
What struck me that day was the realization that everything I have is an undeserved gift. Every good thing is from God and my response of sacrificing the gift back to the giver brings joy.
Wherever we are, every one of us experiences difficulty. But I tell you that there is hope in the darkness. First, our hope is in Jesus.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13 (ESV)
And secondly, it is in opening our eyes to the gifts around us and giving thanks even in the midst of adversity.
This Thanksgiving is no different for me this year. It has been a year of incredible difficulty, but I think that after thirteen years of practice, it is getting easier to give thanks, realizing that my life overflows with blessings straight from the hand of the Father. Here are some of the things I'm deeply thankful for today:
- Obviously, those four beautiful children, each with his or her own unique song to sing. Each one brings me such joy.
- The restorative properties of a morning outside in the mountain air.
- A faithful, thoughtful, brave husband who grows in perseverance every day.
- Several good-arm-days for Mark in a row.
- Knowing that trials result in growth.
- Long-term friendships with truly wonderful women.
- The glorious hope we have in Christ.
- Knowing that even in my small, quiet life, Jesus knows me and sees me and that I don't have to please or impress anyone else for my life to have importance.
- The freedom to teach our children at home, building a strong family culture based on the beliefs we fix our lives on.