An elderly couple, Georgia and Fred, sat down to their Thanksgiving dinner. As they are eating Georgia says: "Fred has our 50 years of marriage made you grateful?" He replied: "Yes indeed! It has made me so thankful for the 20 years I was a bachelor!"
The song reminds us to "Count your many blessings name them one by one. And it will surprise you what the Lord has done." But sometimes we might feel like Fred and giving thanks is the last thing we feel like doing. Sometimes we might feel like the Jews in exile who lamented: "By the waters of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Jerusalem. There on the poplars we hung our harps. How can we sing here in a foreign land?" (Ps. 137:1-4). Sometimes things happen to us, or happen to people that we love, or we find ourselves in circumstances that make us heartsick or afraid or distressed, and the last thing we want to hear is "Count your many blessings." However, Paul reminds us to "Be thankful in all circumstances of life" (1 Thess. 5:18).
NOTE Paul does not say: "Be thankful for all circumstances," but "Be thankful in all circumstances of life." Why? Because the benefits of thankfulness are equal to that of therapy. It is in giving thanks that people can be filled with a sense of wonder and appreciation for life. Regardless if they were healthy, chronically ill or filled with chronic pain, research has proven that people who count their blessings and who have dropped their worry thoughts are happier and physically and mentally healthier than those people who count their blessings on their fingers and their miseries on a calculator.
People filled with thanksgiving stop to smell the flowers while the pickle puss smells flowers and im-mediately looks for a coffin. People with a spirit of gratitude are less stressed and therefore feel more deeply, listen more insightfully, love more deeply, give more lavishly, encourage more lovingly and care more soulfully than people who count their hassles.
Develop a spirit of gratitude and give thanks in all things like the elderly lady who said: "I have so much to be thankful for - I have only two teeth, but I thank God every day that they meet."
Be thankful for the clothes that fit a little too snug, because it means that you have enough to eat. Be thankful for a lawn that needs mowing or windows that need cleaning because it means that you have a home. Be thankful for the parking spot that you find at the far end of the parking lot, because it means you are capable of walking and have been blessed with transportation. Be thankful for the man behind you in church who sings off key, because it means that you can hear. Count your many blessings, name them one by one." Give thanks in all circumstances! "And it will surprise you what the Lord has done."
A Swedish proverb says: "Those who wish to sing can always find a song." Therefore if you burn the tur-key, give thanks because Salmonel-la won't be a concern. Count your blessings, name them one by one and if you do then on Thursday and every day you will be able to say: "Thanks be to God."
Roger Lemke is pastor of Fishers of Men Lutheran Church.