The weather has turned cold, and the days have shortened. The splendid array of bright-colored leaves that only a few days ago caused my heart to sing has dropped to the ground leaving bare twigs and branches. The landscape has settled into dull hues of brown and gray. Are you, like me, struggling to keep your spirit from dropping with the leaves, from descending into a gray dullness?
I turn my thoughts to Thanksgiving, and I begin making a list of things I am thankful for. “A warm house, plenty of food to eat, a loving family . . .” My spirit lightens as I easily come up with a long list of things that bring pleasure and blessing to my life. “This is too easy,” I think as a thought enters my consciousness, a Bible verse I committed to memory years ago.
“Give thanks in all circumstances . . .” I Thessalonians 5:18a (ESV)
I think of a conversation I recently had with my ninety-eight-year-old uncle. He is a widow living alone almost two hundred miles away from his closest family members. He suffers from chronic back pain, the result of the years he spent as a caregiver to his wife. Yet he gushes with thankfulness. “I am so thankful God put me in this family. . . I am so thankful for the wonderful years I had with Dorene, . . .for my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren . . . for the pastor of my church and the church ladies who cook food for me . . . “ His list goes on and on.
I think about my brother-in-law who is in rehab after back surgery. My son and I visited him thinking we were going to cheer him up, but we walked into his room, and he said, “Praise God! God has me here for a reason.” Then we helped him into a wheelchair to push him outside. All through the halls he gave high-fives to the other residents and introduced us to his new friends who were mostly thirty years older than him. “Of course, I would rather be home with my family, but I am determined to make the most of it while I am here,” he explained.
And I think of my dear mother on the crazy whirlwind day when we received the news that her cancer was back—that her breast cancer had metastasized and settled into the lining of her brain. We were told that there was no cure and that she was expected to live less than three months.
When I left her apartment that evening, she said to me, “Don’t worry about me. I am the same as I was yesterday, only now I will wake up every day and thank God for a new day.”
And that is exactly how she lived as she stretched her last few months into over a year. She plugged along with a positive, thankful attitude as her cancer slowly stole her strength and increased her pain. She focused on others and made it her goal to do one thing each day, such as making a phone call to one of her children, or dictating a card for me to send to a friend. And she struggled to simply make it through another day.
The words from the Apostle Paul continue to nag me, “Give thanks in all circumstances.”
I begin my list again. “Thank you for the cold, dark morning.” As I open the door to let the dog out, I see something I hadn’t noticed before. I look up, and the black sky is filled with bright, twinkling stars.
“And thank you for the leafless, dull trees.” As the day lightens, I look out and notice colors that I had overlooked. The landscape isn’t just brown and gray. What about the evergreen trees? Crimson berries? Blue jays and cardinals?
I think I am getting the idea, the secret that my uncle and brother-in-law understand, and that my mother understood. Giving thanks is transforming. It might not change your circumstances, but it changes your perspective. It takes your focus off yourself and shifts it back to the Creator, the giver of all gifts. And in doing so, God lifts your spirit and makes you a blessing to others, even in your difficult circumstances.
I encourage you to join me in giving thanks for all God’s blessings, even those challenging circumstances you wish were different. And I pray God will lighten your mood and open your eyes to greater blessings while using you to fulfill His purposes in the lives of others.
I would love to hear what you are thankful for. Please share your thoughts by responding on the contact page of this blog.