O give thanks unto the LORD; for He is good; for His mercy endures forever (I Chronicles 16:34).
He was tired of it. Tired of the sand, tired of the smell—tired of the whole mess. He was sick of it. Sick of the heat, sick of the people, sick of looking at sick-looking houses and wondering if someone inside was waiting to kill him. It reminded him of the movie Groundhog Day. This deployment was hours of boredom, broken ever-so-often by moments of terror. Life had become one miserable day after another.
Then came Thanksgiving.
At first, the thought depressed him. He thought of Thanksgivings past. He remembered the
food, the fun, and football games watched with family. None of that now. He didn’t want to think of Thanksgiving. It only made him think of what he was missing.
Then the phrase struck him: “What he was missing!” It reminded him of what his grandmother had said years ago: “Don’t just be thankful for what you have, be also thankful for what you don’t have—for what is missing from your life.” The words confused him then, but now he began to understand. He started to look at his life with fresh eyes. What was he missing? Well, cancer, for one thing! He had no cancer. That’s what had taken his grandma away. He missed her, but was that something to be thankful for? Maybe he could give thanks that she did not have to suffer, and now was in the glory of heaven.
What else was he missing? The list began to grow as he looked around. He was missing
desolation and hunger. He was missing a life lived in the stench and poverty that these people
had to endure. His life was lived without worry that a death squad would break into his family’s house.
He lived without the fear that Allah would punish him if he did not bow toward Mecca. He remembered learning about the “Four Freedoms” speech that President Roosevelt gave when America was on the trailing edge of the Depression and moving toward the brink of war: Freedom of speech. Freedom of worship. Freedom from want. Freedom from fear. Loss of these freedoms was missing from his life.
Thank God for that!
But he knew his grandmother would be sure to point out other things missing from his life:
Fear of hopelessness. Fear of godlessness. Fear of meaninglessness. Fear of death. Thank God for grandma! Thank God for all those who loved him; taught him; and prayed for him! Thank God for Jesus, for forgiveness, and salvation! Life looked different now. The irritations remained, but so did the faith that God was with him. He had been miserable, forgetful, and unthankful.
Then came thanksgiving—not just the day, but the words of thanksgiving flowing from his
heart: “O give thanks unto the LORD; for He is good; for His mercy endures forever.” (I Chronicles 16:34)
We join in the words of the Thanksgiving hymn of our forefathers:
Now thank we all our God with hearts and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in whom his world rejoices,
Who from our mother’s arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love and still is ours today.
Oh, may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever-joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us
And keep us in his grace and guide us when perplexed
And free us from all ills in this world and the next. Amen.