Sometimes I suspect God must feel a little like the sailor of whom Sir Winston Churchill once spoke. It seems that one day a Royal Navy sailor dived into the frigid waters of Plymouth Harbor to save the life of a little boy who was drowning. Three days later the sailor met the boy and his mother in the street. He saw the boy nudge his mother. The mother stopped the sailor and asked, “Are you the man who pulled my little boy out of the water?” Expecting an expression of gratitude, the sailor smiled, stood erect, saluted, and said, “Yes Ma’am.” “Then,” replied the mother, with increasing temper, “where’s his cap?”
All of us are oblivious at times to the magnitude of our blessings. Many of us discover that the level of our gratitude fluctuates drastically, depending on the circumstances that surround us. It’s easy to give thanks when the market is up, the interest rates are down, unemployment continues to decrease, wars are on the wane, there’s prosperity and abundance. Do we have Thanksgiving only in the years the GNP is up, or should Thanksgiving be celebrated only in certain high-growth areas of our country?
Surely our thankfulness and joys should not be so dependent on external circumstances. If it is, let’s face it, Thanksgiving Day is a “holiday for the privileged.” What about the family circles that do not have prosperity? The family that is not united but knows instead the awful loneliness of an empty chair that will never again be filled? Are these exempt from the day of joyful thanksgiving? What about that person who knew sickness this past year and still knows it – whose long periods of hospitalization and series of operations have resulted only in the assurance of more hospitalization and surgery? Is this one ineligible for thanksgiving?
The apostle Paul said, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks” (I Thessalonians 5:16-18). These words are spoken by a man who had some rough years – arrested, barely escaping with his life from a lynch mob, in trials and prison, shipwrecked and marooned on an island! How can he say “in everything give thanks?” Well, he does not mean give thanks for everything, but give thanks in every situation! There are no limits to situations in which to give thanks. Paul discovered the ultimate value of knowing Christ. Only in this knowledge could everything else be properly evaluated. He could learn how to be thankful and enjoy all the blessings of life; but he could still have this joy and thankfulness even in difficult times because he had found the deeper truths and meanings undergirding his life.
We, too, can learn the secret of gratitude, thankfulness and contentment that Paul learned if we will allow Christ to change our perspective of God as the source of our sustaining power. We can indeed be thankful and joyful when we find that our source of power is not in our bank account or in our stock portfolio, but rather in the undying love of God and in the vast resources of his treasure house. Gratitude has the power to break us out of the cycles of selfishness, fear, greed, and anxiety which lie at the root of many of our social and relationship problems.
In this Thanksgiving season, may we come a little nearer the secret of contentment and gratitude that Paul experienced, contentment and gratitude that can come only when we are in Christ. When this happens, we - like Paul – will only be able to cry out in benediction, “To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.”"