Gilland: Thanksgiving that runs deep

Another Thanksgiving holiday has passed. This is one of my favorite days of the year, as members of my family gather together to eat, fellowship, play games together and—most importantly—express thankfulness.

That last step is indeed the reason for the holiday. But in our culture, finding thankfulness is not as common as one would think. Part of the reason is that many have relegated thankfulness to happy things that are happening in their lives.

I have heard on way too many occasions the following retort when someone greets them with “Happy Thanksgiving.” Their answer would sadly go something like, “I don’t have much to be thankful for…”

It is possible to find reasons to be thankful—in even the most difficult of circumstances.

In a recent talk with a pastor friend, he told me that he had uncovered an account written by Matthew Henry, the Puritan theologian known best for his “Matthew Henry Commentary,” a popular source of study for most pastors in America.

The account was included in Henry’s diary, after he had been mugged. The robber had taken his wallet, and then vanished. What a scary experience that had to have been for Henry.

I have had things stolen from me a couple of times, but never by a face-to-face robber. And without a doubt, based on his account of the experience, the seriousness of this event was very evident.

But, even in writing about it, Matthew Henry found not one, but four reasons to be grateful, even after such a violation and interruption in his life.

“Let me be thankful first because I was never robbed before,” Henry wrote in his diary. “Second, because although they took my purse, they did not take my life; third, because although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.”

These four conclusions show us that we can always find the silver linings underneath even the most difficult of circumstances. They also reveal the filter through which Henry viewed the robbery: thankfulness.

Personally, I immediately identified with the second reason, and believe that most of us would have been grateful to walk away with our lives. But the other three were not as common, but every bit as true.

I am praying that the sentiment of this past week, the call for thanksgiving in our lives, will go longer and deeper in my heart in the coming year. Regardless of the pandemic, or the state of the economy, we all have so much for which we can be grateful.

The Psalmist knew this insight and declared: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.”

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