This Thanksgiving, I don’t feel particularly thankful.
My family’s going through a rough time. My wife and daughter have had long-term medical issues; my hip has been hurting for the last 2 ½ years, and I found out two weeks ago that I need a total hip replacement. We’ve been financially stressed since I left my teaching career 5 ½ years ago, and just as we were finally getting some financial stability, I lost my job last week. With the job loss goes the semi-affordable insurance I need to pay for my hip surgery. Sometimes, life just stinks.
The economy stinks, so it may be a while before I can get another job where I can make enough money to pay the bills. The prospect of going broke and losing everything I’ve worked for has left me depressed, and I’m tired of the constant physical pain in my hip. And, yes, while I realize I still have more than most people in the world, it’s not a whole lot of consolation. And yes, of course, I still have my family. But, from the perspective of a middle-aged American who sees his health and the American Dream slipping through his fingers, there’s not an abundance to be thankful for this year.
In Matthew 6:33, Jesus said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” What things is He talking about? In verse 25, Jesus said, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” He continues in verses 31-32: “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.” So, when He says in verse 33, “these things shall be added to you,” He is talking about our material needs. God promises to meet the material needs of those who “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” Note that this does not say He will meet our desires, only our needs. There is no “prosperity gospel” in the Bible; there is only the promise that God will provide for the basic needs of those who are truly seeking Him.
But far beyond meeting my physical needs, God has promised to be with me through the trials of life. This is not just some pie-in-the-sky future reward after death, but a promise to walk with me, guide me, and comfort me through the trials of today. One of my favorite passages in all the Bible comes from Romans 8:31-39:
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written:
“For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”
37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
As a follower of Jesus Christ, the most important thing in all of life is my relationship with God through the blood of Jesus Christ. My sin separated me from God; the blood of Jesus has provided reconciliation. Because I have confessed my guilt before holy God, believed and received forgiveness through Jesus Christ, and repented of my sin, I am reconciled with God and have become an adopted child in His family. And nothing can change this. God never promises that His children won’t ever face “tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword.” But, He does promise that by and through His grace, mercy, and love, I am able to conquer all these things. God loves me so much that He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die for my sin (John 3:16). And, He promises that I can never be separated from His love.
This Thanksgiving, I’m not thankful for my health issues, or my unemployment, or the depression that accompanies these things. But, despite the fact that I don’t feel especially thankful, I am thankful for a wife and family that stands by me despite my shortcomings, and I’m especially thankful for the love and grace of God through Jesus Christ, and His promise to see me through the trials of this life.