November is the time of year when we host Thankofferings and Thanksgiving dinners, all focusing on giving thanks for all the blessings God has given us.
But what do we do when it’s really hard to give thanks? What do we do if the world around us seems to have gone mad, or if our family is tearing itself apart, or if our own body or mind is betraying us – and what’s worse, there’s nothing we can do about it? How do we give thanks to God then? How do we even acknowledge God as good?
Think of Job, full of pain and sorrow, answering his spouse’s bitter advice to curse God and die: “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21) How can any human being in that situation say that – and mean it?
Paul of Tarsus, in his second letter to the believers in Corinth, gives us a hint: “Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that [my affliction] would leave me, but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ . . . Therefore I am content . . . for whenever I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:8-9a, 10).
There it is: God’s grace. Even though we mere human beings may be unable to defeat the troubles around us, we can face them courageously and not fall into bitterness as Job’s wife advised. Why? Because God has promised to be there at our side, no matter what. God stands with us. God gives us the strength to endure.
And for that, we can say – and mean – Thanks be to God.
Audrey Novak Riley is director for stewardship for Women of the ELCA. Photos from Unsplash.
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