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Thoughts on Thanksgiving, Someone’s Worst Day Ever is Someone’s Best Day Ever

By Rev Matthew | November 22, 2007

Sometimes it’s hard to be thankful… for some it’s tough even to be thankful at Thanksgiving. For most of us, it’s a time when we can step off the treadmill for a little while and pause to enjoy our families and to count our blessings. And when it comes to blessings, make no mistake about it, we are blessed, you and I… we are incredibly blessed.

Still, the fact that Thanksgiving even exists, as a unique and special day, gives rise to an interesting question; what’s missing in that we need a special day to be consciously and overtly thankful? Jesus told us in his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:11) to “Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven.” Why isn’t this knowledge enough to keep us thankful every minute of every day? Well, maybe it should be but the reality is, it isn’t.

Life is tough. Often times we get mired in the reality of our world and forget our blessings. We get so caught up in our problems that it’s hard to clearly perceive those things we have to be grateful for. Illness, financial woes, martial and family strife are enough to temporarily blind anyone to the blessings they enjoy. Heck, for some, it’s hard to rejoice and be glad simply because their team is down by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. On the other hand, it takes a really, really bad day for others to lose touch with their gladness. Still, life has a way of dealing us all with a few days like that in our life. In fact, life has a way of dealing some of us a lot more than a few really, really bad days.

Now, I suppose, on an intellectual level, we can all understand the concept of being “blessed”, even when we are having a very bad day but when we are in the middle of one of those days, it’s hard to appreciate the “your blessed” reality intellectually… and even harder to feel it. Still, God didn’t put us on earth to simply have a good time. Let’s face it, our faith isn’t tested when things are rolling along as they should; it’s tested when the going gets tough. So, in a way, the tough times exist to help us deepen our faith and to bring us closer to God… there, doesn’t that make you feel much better about the tough times you’ve experienced and the ones that yet lay ahead? I didn’t think so.

There is an old adage that goes, “when you’re up to your rear end in alligators, it’s hard to remember the objective was to drain the swamp.” Likewise, when you’re overwhelmed with troubles, it’s hard to follow Jesus’ instructions and to “rejoice and be glad” even if you do understand. It’s not even a matter of wanting to. I believe we all would like to be able to “rejoice and be glad” in the midst of our troubles, if we could figure out how to get there. The problem is, at moments like that, we are searching around for, and having trouble finding, a little hope, let alone the state of mind to rejoice and be glad in. I struggled with this for years and prayed for guidance until one day it came to me. There is a way for pretty much anyone to find comfort in their blessings at even the lowest and most difficult times. Ever since I gained this understanding, whenever I am at one of my low points I apply this technique and right away, I am once again able to feel blessed and to rejoice and be glad in those blessings and to thank God for any situation. Now, I want to share it with you.

The technique is about perspective and not entirely unlike the old saying “I felt bad because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.” When we are stuck in the misery of our moment, we become so consumed by it, and the troubles take on such proportion, that we become unable to see the entirety of our world. By creating contrast, things can take on a whole new look. This is what I do. I think about Hawa. Hawa is 25 years old and lives in small village in Darfur, in the Sudan. Throughout her entire life she has known little but oppression, brutality and hunger. Last week she watched in horror as her husband and her brother were both brutally beaten and killed by terrorists along with most of the rest of the village. Following the murders, she herself was savagely beaten then raped repeatedly by this band of thugs. There is no food, there is no water. In Hawa’s arms is her 7 year old daughter. They are both starving to death. By tomorrow her daughter will be dead and there is absolutely nothing Hawa can do to prevent it. After that, there will be nothing left for Hawa to do but to wait for death to claim her too.

As I focus on Hawa and absorb her reality, one thing becomes incredibly clear. This may be the absolute worse day of my life but, if it is, it’s also a day that is so remarkably wonderful that it’s beyond Hawa’s ability imagine experiencing as one of her “best days ever.” Think about that for a moment. For Hawa and for millions and millions of people throughout the world, my “worst day ever” is so good, it’s beyond their ability to dare to hope for as their “best day ever”. I am sure that whatever day Hawa imagined in her short life, as what her “best day ever” might have looked like, to us, it would be pretty bleak indeed by comparison to even our really bad days. No matter how awful you think things are in your life at this moment, the fact you are reading this tells me there are a lot of people in this world who can’t imagine having it as good as you do right now. A few moments with Hawa is all it takes to get my mind right and to help me not only know I am blessed, but to feel it to the point where I can genuinely “rejoice and be glad”. Praise God for my troubles, for they have helped me better see my blessings.

Rejoice and be glad! Thank God for your blessings and realize your trials can also be a blessing. Rejoice and be glad, then reach out and share your gladness with someone who is struggling to find their gladness and let them know that God loves them and that within their trials are the gifts of His blessings. We need only to take the time to seek them out. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7: 7-8

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5: 14-16

Happy Thanksgiving

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