You can imagine quite a few pastors have preached on the subject of thanksgiving this week; perhaps you have heard some of them. And perhaps you have heard them speak of God's desire for us to be thankful to Him in ALL situations. After all, Paul was stoned, bit by a viper, shipwrecked, etc. and yet in the bowels of a Roman prison he gave thanks. If he could do it, we can too, they say. And we file that away in the "I'll remember that when I get bit by a snake, etc." category and move on. But what are we missing here?
One thing is the opposite of gratitude, and that I believe is anger. I firmly believe that 90%+ of the times I am angry are when a situation which HAPPENS to me at some level gets taken as a personal attack on me. Probably in the referenced rant, I did just that. But was it, really an attack on me? When (our biggest customer) does one of the many idiotic things they do to create extra work for us, is it really done for MY inconvenience? No, and many of those times, I can say to myself later, "Well, if that hadn't happened, I might have not caught this", or, I might have run out of work before more orders were ready" or the like. It would save me a lot of wasted time and thought to just be thankful.
But how do we manage thanksgiving in such a situation? I was forwarded a devotional yesterday that can help with that one. Heavily paraphrasing, the story went along the lines of a missionary whose family was to have received a gift, but when the shipment arrived, a letter explained that the promised thing hadn't arrived, but as a pair of crutches were just sitting around at the time, they were shipped instead in case someone might make use of them. And the daughter, who missed out on the gift, was trying to explain how she was using the incident to teach herself to be thankful in everything to a friend.
The friend said, "But what is there that you can POSSIBLY be thankful for about these crutches?"
Her answer: "Well, for one, that I don't NEED them."
One thing I have learned well over the years: when God has put me in a situation that sucks, it's usually preventing me from being in a far worse situation. The trick being not letting the situation trap you in a pity-party where you can't see the benefit- or God's protection. And that often requires you be thankful FIRST, and figure out the details later.
But it works both ways, too. Take for example the story of the ten lepers. Jesus healed them all, but only the "foreigner", the Samaritan, returned to thank Him. And Jesus told him, "Your FAITH has healed you." Meaning, while the ungrateful nine received their health, the returning Samaritan received something much better- his SALVATION. It was his thankful heart that brought him to Christ, and thankfulness covers over a ton of problems.
Take for example the story of Gideon in the Book of Judges. How many times was he fearful?
1- when he accused God of forsaking Israel (6:13)
2- "Me? But my family is poor, and I'm the least of my house!" (6:15)
3- "Prove you aren't a mirage, stick around while I get you an offering" (6:18)
4- Tearing down the altar of Baal by night so he wouldn't get caught (6:27)
5- Testing God not once, but twice, with the fleece (6:37-40)
6- "But if you still fear, go into the camp with your servant", and he did (7:10-14)
But once God "passed" this final test- wherein Gideon heard the enemy discussing a dream that told them Gideon would win, what was Gideon's next move?
Jdg 7:15 And it happened, when Gideon heard the telling of the dream and the meaning of it, he worshiped. And he returned to the army of Israel, and said, Arise! For Jehovah has delivered the host of Midian into your hand.
From then on, he was a tiger for God, and the Midianites and all those who supported them fell. Because he stopped saying, "But what if..." and Thanked God for what He was about to do.
And just to draw the difference between thankfulness and anger even sharper, look at this following passage:
Jdg 8:1 And the men of Ephraim said to him, What is this thing you have done to us, not to call us when you went to fight with the Midianites? And they rebuked him sharply.
Jdg 8:2 And he said to them, What have I done now in comparison to you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer?
Jdg 8:3 God has delivered into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb. And what was I able to do in comparison to you? Then their spirits toward him went away when he had said that.
But instead, he praised them- albeit he was praising them for what they accomplished chasing an enemy who was already defeated.
So, how does that all tie in to my rant and the people who continue to cry sour grapes and refuse to see that someone might have a good reason to disagree with them? I don't know quite yet. But I thank God for bringing me this far, and for helping me realize that I don't have to take the stupidity of others-nor the opinions of those who simply don't agree with me, without the stupidity- personally. Because, God's still in His Heaven, and our politics is still no more than two ants fighting over a half a bread crumb. And that's a LOT to be thankful for.