Sunday, November 18, 2007

Giving Thanks During Hard Times

I read the paper this morning as I always do. The pages were filled with discouraging news – news of the war, of the real estate market slump, of rising gas prices, and increasingly bare shelves at local food banks, not to mention the ever-present issue of global warming. It is so easy to have a pessimistic outlook at times like these. It is so easy to focus on all the bad.

Yet, here we are at Thanksgiving, a time set aside to give thanks for all the good in our lives. It is during hard times such as these that we are perhaps most in need of thanksgiving. It is easy to be thankful when everything is going well, yet ironically those are the times when we are most likely to forget to thank God. How often do we thank God for our health when we are not sick? We really don’t appreciate our health until we can’t breathe because of a cold or we are in pain from some injury or illness. It is only right after we recover that we appreciate our well-being. All too quickly, our health once again becomes something we don’t think about. By the same token, when our jobs are going well and there is enough money to pay the bills without worry, we tend not to consider God’s hand in this. Instead we take the credit ourselves.

We are often quick to blame God, however, when things are not going well in our lives. Why is God allowing these bad things to happen to us? We petition God to lift this hardship. It is right and good to petition God for our needs, but even in our time of need, we also need to remember to thank God. The Daily Examen is a cornerstone of Ignatian Spirituality. As part of that process, we take time at the end of the day to thank God for His presence during the day. We reflect over the day and thank God for all the good things that occurred.

Some days it may seem that there is little to thank God for, but amazingly there is always something. There is always some glimmer of light in the darkness: a kind word that someone may have uttered, a moment of beauty in nature, an unexpected blessing. God has ways of letting us know that He is there, even when we are traveling on a difficult path. In this week’s gospel (Luke 21:5–19), Jesus tells us that bad things will happen. “Nation will fight against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes and plagues and famines in various places; there will be terrifying events and great signs from heaven . . . you will be seized and persecuted.” Yet, even amidst all that pain and suffering, God is with us.

And so, yes, especially in these hard times, we need to take the time to thank God for the many blessings in our lives. We thank God for family and friends, and the food we do have to eat. We thank God for the gift of life and each new dawn. We thank God for the gift of nature, for the sunrise and the sunset, for the animals, and the plants. We thank God for love and the ability to share with our fellow human beings. We thank God for the gift of His son and the hope of eternal life. We thank God for everything.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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