Thanksgiving means different things to many people: Pilgrims and native Americans sharing a meal; turkeys – living, or stuffed and roasted (or fried); family and friends getting together to stuff themselves; traditional football games; Grandma’s favorite recipes; holiday parades; pecan or pumpkin pie. Some people actually see it as a day for genuine thanksgiving, being thankful to God for blessings they’ve experienced over the past year.
But what if the day arrives and you don’t feel thankful? You’ve recently lost a dear loved one; confronted seemingly insurmountable financial problems; dealt with serious health issues; faced intense family conflict; lost a job, or just feel like has dealt you a bad hand in general and there’s no re-deal. How can you be thankful for things such as these?
Years ago I helped my friend, Albert, write a booklet about his life titled, “Saying ‘Thank You’ Even When You Don’t Feel Thankful.” Those who know him understand he’s had many reasons for not feeling thankful.
He grew up in the Netherlands during World War II, enduring great poverty and near-starvation. He and his family subsisted on tulip bulbs and occasional sugar beets. One result of malnutrition was contracting tuberculosis and being confined to a bed for more than three years, 2½ of those in a hospital far from his family.
After immigrating to the United States, Albert worked hard and eventually became a successful entrepreneur, but has endured various business setbacks and other illnesses, including cancer. He’s got every reason to not be thankful, whether at Thanksgiving or any other time. And yet, he’s perhaps the most joyful, thankful person I know.
Why? There’s only one reason – his relationship with Jesus Christ and confidence that no matter what happens, God is with him every step along the way, providing comfort, strength and whatever else is needed to endure and overcome his adversities.
Albert explains, “God is in control of all things. When you accept Christ, your life is going to be totally changed. One of those changes is that you realize everything is going to be all right, no matter what.
“I have seen God prove this in my life many times,” he says. “I’ve had half of a lung removed because of a faulty biopsy report. One night I was riding in a car on the German Autobahn. Suddenly a car stopped directly in front of us. We struck it going about 95 miles an hour, yet I was able to walk away from the accident. And I’ve had many ups and downs in business.
“God never promises things will be easy when you become a Christian, but He does promise He will take care of you no matter what the circumstances may be.”
For Albert, reflecting on his life’s highs and lows, one passage from the Bible sums up the hope – confident assurance and earnest expectation – that has sustained him during his adult life: “Be joyful always; pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
Having known Albert for more than 30 years, I know these are not empty words or platitudes, but the heartfelt expression of a man who has walked intimately with God and wouldn’t trade his life with anyone or for anything.
I hope when Thanksgiving Day arrives this Thursday, you’ll find much for which to be thankful. If not, I hope that like my friend, you’ll be able to give thanks even if you don’t feel thankful.
Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, a former newspaper editor and magazine editor. He is presently vice president of communications for Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit focused on mentoring and coaching business and professional leaders. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and has authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” “Business at Its Best,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. He also posts regularly on two blogs, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com, and www.bobtamasy.wordpress.com. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.