In Every Thing Give Thanks

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If you have read this column for several years, you should have noticed that when it comes to Thanksgiving, I usually get on a soapbox. My soapbox motivation is the transition our nation has taken from heartfelt thankfulness to God Almighty to something known as “Turkey Day.”

Do not get me wrong; I love Thanksgiving. I love any day when the whole family gets together. However, most families, including professing Christians, keep God out of the holiday.

Hopefully, the previous is the end of my soapbox derby. Instead, we will look at a verse that is extremely difficult to follow.

1 Thessalonians 5:18, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

Do any of us, including myself, give thanks in everything? Some things are too small to notice, and on the other end of the spectrum, some things are too catastrophic to be thankful.

A few years ago, I opened up the floor at church for people to share how God is working in their lives or praise Him with thanksgiving. A woman gave thanks for her washing machine. I could not help but think of how people would gripe and complain if the clothes washer quit working. Complaints would roll in on the price of the repairs or replacement. More griping about the cost of a laundry mat. Whether we wash clothes in our laundry room or pump quarters into commercial washers and dryers, how many of us are thankful that we are not beating our clothing on rocks out at the creek?

The air we breathe, the sunrise, the roof over our head, the vehicle we drive, the television we watch, the list is endless. Remember, the verse says, “In every thing…”

When it comes to being thankful for the catastrophic, that is ruff.

The darkest day of my life was when my sister, Brenda, died. Brenda was eleven years my senior, and I followed her around like a lost puppy. We did everything together. One of my fondest memories from childhood was the two of us using a hairbrush as a microphone, singing with the Beatles, Johnny Cash, the Monkees, and others playing on her record player.

When Brenda married, I cried for three days when I realized she would no longer live with us. I was closer to Brenda than my mother. It is just the way it was.

Brenda went into the hospital in late January 1975; she passed away twelve days later. She was twenty-six, and I was fifteen. Once again, I cried like a baby for several days. What do you do when the person always there suddenly is gone with no opportunity to return?

Everyone handles grief in their way. I tried to keep things the same while retreating into a shell. Brenda and I went bowling together at least once a week. I bowled in a league on Saturday mornings. Her funeral was on Friday. Saturday morning, I woke up and got ready to go to the bowling alley. My parents encouraged me to stay home. When I told dad, “Brenda would want me to go.” He relented and drove me there. I continued my outside activities like normal.

The retreating into a shell came at home. We still had Brenda’s old record player, and I still had all those old albums. I’d lay in my bedroom and play them by the hour. My only activity at home for the first few months was playing a table game Brenda bought me. I set up a card table in my room and played that game solitaire all evening. I played the role of all players.

Nearly three months after her death, the minister of her church and another man came to visit. It was a Thursday. They invited me to revival services at the church. I gave them every excuse I could think of. I was basically down to, “Look man, I don’t want to go!” But I was taught to be polite and went to church that evening.

The preacher preached about God’s salvation. How we are all sinners and that Jesus was the Lamb of God – the sacrifice for our sins. He seemed to be talking to me.

I remembered Brenda telling me about Jesus. I went to Sunday School in my preschool and early elementary years with her. But that night, April 24, 1975, I placed my faith in Jesus Christ for my salvation. My life, my eternity, changed that night.

Without Brenda’s death, I would not have been in church that night. That night, I met Julie for the first time. We had our 44th wedding anniversary this year. God eventually called me to preach. I would not be a Pastor or write this column if my sister had not died when she did. My entire life would be different.

A day that brought thousands of tears and my life’s greatest sorrow was the gateway to my life’s greatest blessing and blessings coming in eternity.

What does the Bible say?

1 Thessalonians 5:18, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

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