Sometimes thanksgiving is a discipline. When resentment comes easy, gratitude can seem out of reach. That’s when we need to try to see some purpose in our trials. Tonight, the text for our Thanksgiving Eve service (at 7:30pm in Montgomery with John Waller leading worship) is Jeremiah 30:18-22. It was written in 587 BC to encourage God’s people the next year, 586 BC, as they experienced the prophesied destruction of Jerusalem. So… this leads me to a question. Why couldn’t God just not have the whole thing happen? If He knew it would be so hard as to merit a special “book of consolation” – which is what Jeremiah 30-33 is called – then why didn’t He just skip it? Why not skip all death and destruction while we’re at it? Why not skip the cross especially? Just wave Your God-wand, Lord, and set things right.
But He won’t…ever…do this. We won’t always know why, but sometimes we can point to the fact that pain has divine purpose. It teaches and refines us. We leave its grip shaped into something of greater value to God. Shannon and I are “sandwiched,” as they say: now bound to the full-time care of my mom in our home with our kids. Many people go through much worse, but things like this feel unending, whatever the scale. This is a big part of the challenge. So, it’s never a waste of time to ask, “Why are we doing this?” Suddenly, the question leads us to think about my mom’s quality of life, as we work to help her regain what her strokes have taken from her. The grind becomes ennobled. The hours of extra time with her every day do not feel lost, but rather redeemed. Perspective, in God’s eyes, is more important than and influences experience. Thanksgiving is a holiday of perspective. May ours be changed, I pray. May we all see the divine purpose behind whatever is painful for us. Amen.