I don’t know about you, but Thanksgiving snuck up on me. A few weeks ago the checkout person at Kroger said to me, “Are you ready for Thanksgiving?” Her question shocked me, and I didn’t even know what to say. Was it already time for Thanksgiving? How did this happen? It seems like it should still be summer. The time has passed too fast this year.
Yet I have to confess that my hesitancy about Thanksgiving is most likely more than a calendar issue. 2016 has not been particularly kind to me. I started the year with months and months of unexplained pain. I finally had surgery in June. The medical bills began arriving in early July. Then in mid-July, in the space of two days, my good friend, Genie and my grandmother died. Add to all this the daily news in the past few weeks about the chaos in our nation. 2016 has not been a kind year.
Honestly, thankfulness is not coming easy to me this year.
I preached yesterday at my church. Yes, I know . . . a preacher who isn’t very thankful got the preaching assignment for Thanksgiving Sunday. Seems like that happens to me a lot–I keep getting the preaching assignments on those weeks when I am struggling most. I am not sure if it is my pastor . . . or if it is God who is conspiring against me.
But early last week, I started preparing for my sermon. I sat and read the lectionary passages for Thanksgiving Sunday. And there it was: Psalm 46.”God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
God, in the beautiful “you should already know this by now” way that God works in my life, reminded me that I indeed have MUCH for which to give thanks. I have been blessed. I am a recipient of God’s good grace AND even in hard times, even in seasons of struggle, there is much for which I should be thankful.
This week the devotion book I use also had a reflection on Psalm 46 . . . but it offered a slightly different translation of verse one: “God is for us a refuge and strength, a helper close at hand, in time of distress.” When I read this different translation–it changed everything, it calmed my anxiety, it gave me courage, it adjusted my perspective.
God is FOR us.
God is FOR us a refuge.
God is FOR us strength.
In times of trouble, in times of distress, in seasons of worry and anxiety, in days of hardship and struggle, God is FOR us. God is FOR all of us a refuge. God provides us with shelter during life’s storms. God gives us a safe place to take cover, a warm place to find embrace and love. God is FOR us a refuge.
God is FOR us strength. God gives us the ability to keep on walking, keep on moving, keep on breathing, even when life beats us down, when the world turns against us. It is God who give us the strength we need.
God is present, very present—when we are in trouble. God is a helper close at hand. God is always with us, always nearby. God never leaves us nor forsakes us. God is with us.
These past few weeks, in my state of unthankfulness and non-gratitude, in my days of anxiety and fear, I have needed help remembering that God is FOR me, that God is for ME a refuge and strength. I have needed reminders of that truth.
Early last week, I got a text from Robert, who serves as a deacon at my church. He knew I was struggling. We had talked at length about my anxieties, and a few days after our conversation, he texted me with encouraging words. We exchanged a couple more texts that morning—and I was reminded that I am not alone. I have my church, my lovely church members. And on those days when life seems too hard, too overwhelming, I have my church members to turn to. They are for me reminders that God is with me, that God never abandons me. God shows up for me through their kind words, their warm hugs, and their encouraging texts. We have EACH other—we are not alone. We serve as reminders to one another that we are loved and embraced by a powerful, compassionate, caring God.
Yesterday, in my sermon, I reminded my congregation that our calling as people of faith, our mission at Cornerstone Church is to lift each other up, to encourage one another, to pray for our brothers and sisters, and to point each other to God, and to remind each other that God is FOR us! God is FOR each of us.
And that, my friends, I have discovered is what this season of THANKSGIVING is all about for me. It is not about the things I have or the possessions I have collected. It is not about the stuff I own. Thanksgiving for me . . . for all of us who are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ is a time to give thanks for what we know to be true: God is FOR us!
Pam Durso is executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry, Atlanta, Georgia..