Years ago, I memorized Colossians, chapter 3. It's a rich chapter that speaks to so many parts of my Christian journey. I especially like what Paul wrote in verse 15. "And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful" (Col. 3:15, ESV).
I recognize it isn't a cheery time for everyone, but I love Thanksgiving. I relish all the seasonal food and family time, not to mention once it's over, I get to stop hiding my decorations and finally dust off my Christmas playlists!
I like the idea of being thankful. However, if I'm honest, I'm not very consistent with it. My gratitude meter might peg 8.5 on Thanksgiving Day, but the rest of the year it frequently dips to a solid 2 or 3.
We all know 2021 hasn't given us a ton of things to rejoice over. It's been a tumultuous ride for so many and it's easy to feel blue. But I'm slowly learning that thankfulness combats depression.
In an attempt to drill this life-truth into my head, I recently started looking in the Bible for people who exhibited thankfulness. As it turns out, I discovered quite a few examples.
I was especially drawn to the apostle Paul, who consistently practiced thankfulness. He started out most of his letters to the early church by thanking his readers for their faith. "We always pray for you, and we give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Col. 1:3, NLT).
Paul's example inspired and challenged me. He gave thanks, just because the people he was writing to existed. That made me stop and think. How conditional is my gratitude? Am I thankful for someone because they are alive and in my life? Or am I grateful for people because of what they do for me? Am I thankful today because I got a big bonus at work or because I have another day of life?
Asking myself these hard questions is making it somewhat easier for me to be thankful — unconditionally. I'm learning that I can be grateful, even on the darkest of days.
This holiday season, as I'm practicing thankfulness, I want to be mindful of those who may be struggling to find the tiniest sliver of gratitude. This year, there will be empty places at thousands of tables in our communities across the Northwest. Whether these lives were lost to COVID-19 or to other circumstances, my prayer for myself and for my church is that we may somehow shine the light of gratitude into the lives of those hurting around us. May we truly give people a reason to be thankful, not only for us, but for our loving God.
Creator God, give us eyes to see those who need Your grace and joy.