At church yesterday we had an opportunity to share what we were thankful for in 2012. The response was not what I expected. Practically every person who garnered courage to stand up, walk to the front and level their mouth at the microphone shared a story of thankfulness despite and in the midst of hardship.
Grief had touched so many people in our congregation last year.
One young man said he was thankful for God’s faithfulness through the loss of his sister.
One woman was thankful despite the loss of a dear friend through terminal illness – who died one day before she returned from overseas.
Another was thankful for her daughter, even though she did not live beyond the womb. She was so thankful for that little life and the promise of holding her one day in heaven.
A man approached the microphone and shared a similar story – that he and his wife had lost a son in 2012 and the first thing they did was drop to their knees and thank God for what they did have.
As I sat there in the pew I was a bit surprised. Here was an opportunity to share what we are most thankful for, and practically every person spoke of sadness. Sadness and thankfulness linking arms. I was reminded of something Kahlil Gibran once said, “When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”
I guess these people, despite painful situations, had been able to recognise such delight and be thankful, even when it had been taken from them.
And one man got up there and told how his friends lost their house a few days ago, devoured by the fires at Dunalley. Parents to five kids. Their parents also lost their house. Suddenly everything they owned was on their backs. But when the guy from my church spoke to them in the hours afterwards, this is what they said: “God hasn’t let us down yet”.
Thankfulness is a funny thing. You would think that the folks with the most are more able to attain that thankful heart. But loss hones our perspective just like fire refines gold.
Lamentations is a book believed to have been written by Jeremiah who experienced great torment. “My splendour is gone and all that I hoped from the Lord,” he writes in chapter 3:18. But a few verses later he turns his focus, giving us encouragement in our own suffering; “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (3:22-23).
Jeremiah took his attitude hostage and turned sorrow to thanks.
Thank you to all those who shared their stories of loss. Thank you for showing how thankfulness helped you overcome sorrow. The service yesterday finished with a song by Matt Redman called 10,000 Reasons. This verse was pertinent. I couldn’t sing the words for the knot in my throat:
The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes.
Praying that those affected by the fires find new reasons to sing.
Support those Tasmanians now without a home by donating to Red Cross here.
As printed in The Examiner Newspaper for Keeping the Faith column on Monday January 7, 2013.