Norman Rockwell never painted a Thanksgiving like the one I had this year. I spent the day in bed with a bad case of bronchitis, missing my wife, who died six months ago. I also mostly missed my shots to the wastebasket and scattered snotty tissues on the floor. But, Ironically, during this less than perfect Thanksgiving day, I had a new insight about the importance of being thankful.
It was from the flip side of this familiar verse:
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:21)
I have always read that verse as an explanation for how people become twisted and darkened in their thinking. But if failing to honor and give thanks to God results in a darkened heart and mind, the converse, the flip side, must also be true. In circumstances that seem crummy and depressing, there is a way to brighten our outlook, a way to wash the mud off our spiritual windshield. Spend some time and mental energy in those circumstances reflecting on how amazing and holy God is, how perfect, loving, patient, gracious, all-knowing, all-powerful and eternal. And then in those same circumstances, focus on what He has done and given for which you are thankful.
I will be honest: it took some effort to overcome feeling sorry for myself. And when I began to get the hang of it, I was not magically transported into a Norman Rockwell version of Thanksgiving. No satisfying blobs of turkey stuffing, drenched in gravy. No candlelit, happy faces sharing a toast. But something better, more long lasting happened. My thinking became clear and my heart enlightened. My spirits were lifted and filled with joy. And I watched some guilt-free football.
When you are struggling, remember the flip side. If failing to honor God and give Him thanks leads to a futile, darkened heart and mind, the reverse is also true. It was good to discover and practice that lesson for.
Now if I can work on my Kleenex bank shot…