1 Thessalonians 5:18(NIV): Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Seven years ago tonight, my friend Edward and I were almost back to the states from our mission trip to Liberia, West Africa. We had spent over a week in this war-torn nation and now we were arriving back to the land of plenty on Thanksgiving night. I remember feeling kind of guilty about the day after Thanksgiving meal that awaited me on Friday. We had met people who told us that their greatest daily concern was being able to feed their family. I didn’t eat much that Thanksgiving because of the thoughts of our brothers and sisters in Christ who were hungry in Liberia. Some things have improved over the last seven years for our friends in Africa, but providing for and feeding their family continues to be among their primary concerns.
And yet, here on Thanksgiving week in the United States, many people’s greatest concern is finding the best shopping deal that they can. We stuff ourselves with food, take a nap, and then head out in a mad frenzy to the most popular shopping destinations to buy material things that we could do without, if we had to. What if we were faced with making the difficult decisions that many people around the world are forced to make tonight? We have so much and we only want more and more and more. Concern for our neighbor and our fellow human beings is the farthest thing from our minds.
My oldest daughter has been on four mission trips to Haiti and during that time, she has developed a heart full of compassion for the Haitian people. As she talks about her experiences there, I can see the love of Christ filling up her heart and soul for the people that she has come to know in that country. Two days before Thanksgiving, I read that a rescue effort was under way for about 100 Haitian refugees whose overloaded vessel ran aground and capsized off the shore of the Bahamas. About 30 Haitians are presumed dead after this attempt to reach the Bahamas in search of a better life.
We don’t read the words of the Apostle Paul, “to give thanks in all circumstances”, as our brothers and sisters in Liberia and Haiti do. I can tell you that one of the most Spirit-filled worship services that I have ever been a part of was in a church in Liberia. I witnessed in person, followers of Christ who truly gave thanks in all circumstances. And most of their circumstances were extremely difficult at best. My daughter would say the same for services that she has been a part of in Haiti. Their faith and the fact that they believe God is with them in their “circumstances” are what gives them hope.
Many people will read this and say that they only have themselves to blame for what is happening in their countries. A follower of Christ will read this and with deep compassion say, “I have more than I need, how can I help others who are in so much need?”
So, if you have plenty this Thanksgiving and throughout the year – be thankful! Acknowledge God and thank Him for your many blessings. Be thankful that you have a warm home to fall asleep in and that you can go to bed without being hungry. Be thankful that God provides in ways that are both recognizable and unrecognizable. “Be thankful in all circumstances” and know that whatever circumstance you face, God is with you.