Thanksgiving is a good holiday, many people’s favorite. It’s a time to relax and to get together with loved ones. It’s a time for good food. And it’s a time to be thankful – especially if we have these things – time to relax, the presence of loved ones and delicious food. Yet as good as life can be, it’s short compared to eternity. And that’s okay, because we’re promised that too (eternity) by Jesus himself. This is a good thing, as some people don’t get much happiness on earth. So God will make all things right in the end. As the English mystic Julian of Norwich says, “all will be well.”*
Some say thanking God even when we don’t feel like it can make us more aware of what we have to be grateful for. Many of us in a developed country like this one have much to be grateful for and much to celebrate – much of the time (though all of us suffer, and these last few years have been particularly challenging in multiple ways, as we know). May God inspire us to keep an attitude of gratitude and continue celebrating – not only on Thanksgiving Day but throughout the year.
When suffering does come this is what Julian of Norwich recommends: “For it is God’s will that we do all in our power to preserve our consolation, for bliss lasts forevermore, and pain is passing, and will be reduced to nothing… Therefore it is not God’s will that when we feel pain we should pursue it in sorrow… but that suddenly we should pass it over, and preserve ourselves in the endless delight which is God.” Encouraging words. Let’s allow God to help us see what we have to be grateful for and help us keep a genuinely positive attitude as much as possible, as Julian recommends.
All that said, may our positivity and joy inspire us not to deny or avoid others’ (or our own) suffering, but rather to alleviate it. Scripture says we can overcome evil with good. Scripture says, “The joy of the Lord is our strength”, that is our strength to meet others who are hurting with hope and joy. Remember though, to maintain hope and joy over the long haul we’re called to take it one day at a time realizing that God does most of the work. Alleviating others suffering may be as simple as a warm smile or a friendly hello.
Alleviating others suffering may be as simple as treating others with respect who we are tempted to look down on or put in a category. Alleviating our own suffering may be as simple as holding our heads high and setting a boundary with someone who disrespects us. Alleviating suffering may be as complex as discovering a cure for an illness.
We are able to alleviate others and our own suffering because God loves us first, because God blesses us first. Yes God loves everyone, but sometimes God decides that we are the channel through whom God will reveal his love to others. Even atheists are inspired by God when they are a blessing to others (they just don’t know it).
In a word, be as grateful and happy as possible and let this overflow to all around you.
I am grateful to each of you for the ways you demonstrate your gratitude to God and each other, for all the ways you bless this community and this world.
*(adapted from an earlier sharing)
Happy Thanksgiving, John+
About Julian of Norwich
Julian Of Norwich (1342-1416) is known to us by her book, Revelations Of Divine Love. It is one of the earliest surviving examples of a book in the English language written by a woman. It is a great read for all interested in Christian mysticism.