This Thanksgiving, there will be a lot of good things for which to be thankful. But did you ever stop to realize that, without bad things in our lives, we would be less appreciative for the good things?
This Thanksgiving, thousands of soldiers will be far away from home, many in desert regions. So what is there to be thankful for? For starters, they are surrounded by those who would defend them with their lives, who share common goals, who are all in it together. Secondly, they all look forward to just how wonderful it will be to be reunited with their loved ones back home when the day comes. Never would they have appreciated them so much without the forced separation.
When I am ill, really hurting, there are those moments where the pain subsides, and those moments are glorious. When I am healthy, I find myself thinking that I am bored or lonely or overworked or unappreciated in some way. But, after I have been ill, it feels so good just to be well again that I deeply appreciate just being alive and well.
Sometimes, bad things happen that force everyone to understand and face a difficult truth. In ancient Rome, an innocent young man was run through in a gladiatorial arena. Seems he had stepped in to try to appeal to an end of such ungodly contests in a country that now called itself Christian. The young man died, but there were no more gladiatorial contests in ancient Rome. In Ferguson, MO, and young man died, and all kinds of emotions surged to the surface. But, it the wake of his death, the ugly truth of black on black crime is finally coming out of the closet for all to examine. Perhaps this will be the moment when we don’t sweep this ugly truth back under the rug.
When Christians look around and see that the world is chilling to the whole idea of Christianity, it gives them pause to reflect on a few things. First of all, apathy and even hostility to Christianity begins with the complacency of Christians. We allow the worldly thinking to slowly creep into our lives and we lose our appreciation of what we gain by being Christian. Perhaps the greatest example of this lies on the horizon as we contemplate Christmas. I was talking to a young boy the other day whose father tells me he is Christian. He is looking forward to Christmas. I said I was, too, because we get to celebrate Jesus’ birthday. He didn’t know who Jesus was, but he assured me that Santa was someone he really liked.
I’m not here to condemn people who let their children believe in Santa Clause. But I’m afraid that most adults also have the same attitudes about Jesus and Santa. Anyway, it’s times like these that cause one to wake up and wonder what we have missed while we were sleeping. And it returns us to the understanding that we are waging a constant war for hearts. If we lay down our arms, the other side will not. Santa’s forces are always at the ready with the big lie that life is about getting things and being selfish and believing there is no God but Santa.
So, like the Christians of the first century, who were under constant derision and threat of persecution and death, we hear St. Paul’s urging to “rejoice in the Lord always”, and we begin to understand what we have lost and begin to appreciate it like never before. When America was nominally Christian, we began to send missionaries to far-flung places where there was still “work to be done.” Now that the veneer of Christianity is gone from America, we see that the work is, as it had really always been, right in front of us. And we see that we also need to be like those soldiers who sit half a world away in the sand. We need to be of one mind and purpose and we need to be ready to defend each other, and our Commander in Chief, with our lives. And that doesn’t mean just being ready to die for each other, but also being ready to live for each other.
Yes, give thanks for the bad stuff. The bad stuff helps us to focus on the good stuff.