Being Thankful Throughout the Season
- 2002 25 Nov
A Season for Humble Gratitude
Editor's Note: Our world has experienced some astonishing events over the past year or so, and in the midst of somber news it's a natural reflex for us to become distracted from reflecting on God's faithfulness.
That's why this special year-end issue is dedicated to remembering God's blessings and His steadfast nature.
That old yuletide season is about to slip in the door once again. Better not shout, better not pout, for the malls will be playing "Jingle Bells" several thousand times between now and December 25. If you're not careful, the crowds and commercialism can weigh you down like that fourth helping of stuffing at Thanksgiving dinner. And there's nothing worse than a jaded attitude that resists the true spirit of the season.
Although this has been a challenging year in numerous ways, recently it occurred to me that we have a practical reason to look back over it with gratitude for God's protection and blessings to each of us. This reflection sets in motion the ideal mental attitude to carry us through the weeks ahead. In other words, a sustained spirit of humble gratitude will make that period leading up to December 25 an integral part of the Christmas celebration rather than a dreadful marathon run toward the finish.
This is a year we cannot afford to end in frustration. Just over two months ago we marked the one-year remembrance of the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. We face the daily fright of living in a world fraught with evil-one in which innocent people are gunned down as they go about their business, where vacationers and tourists are killed by those whose intent is to control through fear. But through pain and tears, heartache and sadness, I-like you-have seen and experienced God's hand of protection and mercy, even in the toughest moments. We are a changed people, and our lives and attitudes are evidence of that change, whether for good or bad.
My friend Peggy Noonan expressed it beautifully and succinctly in her column earlier this year:
Let me tell you what 9/11 did to me. It made me hungrier for life.
It made me feel more tenderly toward it and more
grateful. It's all short, even in the worst life it's too short,
and you want to really feel and experience it and smell it
and touch it and thank God for it.
During this holiday season, let's pledge not to let ungratefulness become our creed or bitterness our stumbling block. Let's make a decision to face each sunrise and sunset trusting in the faithfulness of our merciful God. And let's not allow this to be simply head knowledge that pays only lip service to God's goodness. Let it flow through your life . . . and if it is only head knowledge now, pray that God will cause you to lean on Him and trust Him as never before. As we consistently remind ourselves of God's provision in our lives and the lives of our loved ones, the holidays will become a special time of spiritual enrichment, personal renewal, and humble gratitude.
Sometimes, though, it can be a challenge to consistently praise God and look for His hand, even when we do have the head knowledge of His love and faithfulness. If you find yourself in this situation, often the Psalms are a great source to get you back on track.
Most of us have probably heard Elizabeth Barrett Browning's "Sonnet 43," which begins:
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.Psalm 116 is also an extraordinary expression of love-addressed to God! "How do I love Thee, God?" the psalmist seems to ask. In his answers, we find several magnificent truths about God's goodness and deliverance.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach . . .
I love the LORD, because He hears
My voice and my supplications.
Because He has inclined His ear to me,
Therefore I shall call upon Him as long as I live.
The cords of death encompassed me
And the terrors of Sheol came upon me;
I found distress and sorrow.
Then I called upon the name of the LORD:
"O LORD, I beseech You, save my life!"
Gracious is the LORD, and righteous;
Yes, our God is compassionate.
The LORD preserves the simple;
I was brought low, and He saved me.
Return to your rest, O my soul,
For the LORD has dealt bountifully with you. (1-7)
Peggy Noonan, "Back to Life: Does Karen Hughes have a case of Sept. 11?" The Wall Street Journal, April 26, 2002.
ii Elizabeth Barrett Browning, "Sonnet 43,' www.gale.com, accessed on September 28, 2001.