“How is your day going?” asks a friend.
How do you answer that question? Many people let circumstances beyond their control determine their answer to that question. If they are sick, or the weather is bad, or somebody has treated them poorly, then they decide it’s a bad day. But if their health is improving, or the weather is nice, or somebody was kind to them, then they decide it’s a good day. The problem with that approach to life, is that it allows other people to decide for us what kind of day we are having!
God’s Word teaches us a better way. “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it,” says Psalm 118:24. “Give thanks in everything,” we read in 1 Thessalonians 5:18. Really? Everything? How can I give thanks for cancer or a loved one who is dying? Notice scripture does not say to give thanks for everything, but to give thanks in everything. We can give thanks to God despite our troubles, because God often works through our troubles for good, and because, as bad as things may seem, we still have many blessings around us. Many of the psalms list reasons to give thanks. Read Psalm 103, 136, and 138, and you will see what I mean.
A pastor in Illinois was grieving the death of his father. His father always had a thankful attitude. But his son didn’t feel that way. He missed his Dad terribly. His mother told her son that during the war in Korea, his father was depressed one day, and went up on a mountain. On the mountain, God spoke to his heart in prayer. He decided right there, in the midst of war, to make it his daily habit to count his blessings. It changed his life. As the mother told her son this story, they came across an old photograph of the pastor’s father in his Army t-shirt in Korea. He had a happy smile. His mother pointed to something in the background. It was a mountain. “That,” she said, “was where your father counted his blessings.”
Someone wisely said,
Count your blessings instead of your crosses;
Count your gains instead of your losses.
Count your joys instead of your woes;
Count your friends instead of your foes.
Count your smiles instead of your tears;
Count your courage instead of your fears.
Count your full years instead of your lean;
Count your kind deeds instead of your mean.
Count your health instead of your wealth;
Count on God instead of yourself.
As Christians, we are able to do that, because we have the greatest blessing of all, the forgiveness of our sins through faith in Jesus Christ. Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” That’s blessing number one! Start there, and keep counting. On a mountain in Korea, a soldier decided to count his blessings. When and where will you do and I do the same?
(Below is a guest blog by Suzie Kolber on the subject of how to express sympathy during the holidays, which can be a difficult time for those who have recently lost a loved one. Suzie is a writer at ObituariesHelp.org. The site is a complete guide for someone seeking help for writing words of condolences, sympathy messages, condolence letters and funeral planning resources.)
The holidays can be such a fun, exciting time for most people. However, for those who have recently lost a family member or close friend, it can be a difficult, painful time. Everywhere they look, something reminds them of prior holidays spent with that person.
Depression is a common problem during this season for people who have lost their loved ones. If the anniversary of the death or the person’s birthday falls during this time, it can make the brightest days seem dark.
Many bereaved people tend to avoid others during this time. They don’t socialize or go out because they see the festivities as another painful reminder of their loss. On the other hand, friends and family members may tend to avoid the bereaved person because they don’t know what to say. It feels awkward to be around them and try to hide their natural excitement for the season.
While it is natural to want to avoid the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, the isolation only contributes more to the feelings of depression and loneliness. Family members and friends need to be aware of this and continue interacting with their grieving loved one.
What To Say
It’s normal to want to avoid someone when you don’t know what to say to them. However, your support and sympathy is needed, especially when someone suffers such a loss around the holiday season. The following tips will help you offer the comfort that is needed.
- Offer assistance for the person who still has to organize the holiday celebration even though they are grieving. For instance, someone may have lost a spouse but has children who want to celebrate. They may need help with cleaning, cooking or even shopping.
- Invite someone to your home for the holidays, especially if you are having a low-key celebration. This allows them to get out without being overwhelmed by the activities.
- Invite the loved one to volunteer with you. Doing something like creating gift baskets for soldiers can help a person feel useful and remind them that they are not alone. Others may be missing loved ones for different reasons.
- Be willing to talk about the deceased. Your job may be as simple as listening as the person relives fond memories. While you may think it would bring sadness to talk about the person who is gone, it can actually be helpful. The person is thinking about them anyway; talking provides healing.
If the person lives far away and you can’t visit during the holiday season, it is appropriate to send a flower or gift basket. You don’t need to wish them “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas.” Instead, include a card that says that you are thinking of them. Just this reminder and a few lovely flowers can brighten their day.
Anytime is a bad time to lose a loved one. Suffering the loss during the holidays makes the pain even more severe for many. Reach out to those people and they will appreciate the comfort that you provide.
Cal & Rose Samra tell how Thanksgiving Day was approaching, and a family received a Thanksgiving card with a painting of a Pilgrim family on their way to church.
Grandma showed the card to her small grandchildren, saying, “The Pilgrim children like to go to church with their mothers and fathers.”
“Oh yeah?” her grandson shot back, “if they really like to go, then why is their dad carrying that rifle?”
Which raises a question this Thanksgiving: do you really like to worship God and give Him thanks?
John Walker from Post, Texas, tells about a Christian farmer who visited a city and went to eat at a fine restaurant. When he received his food, he bowed his head and quietly gave thanks to God. Some rowdy teenagers at the next table sneered and said, “Hey farmer, does everybody do that where you live?”
The old farmer looked at the young man and calmly said, “No, son, the pigs don’t.”
Don’t be a pig this Thanksgiving. Be willing to give thanks to your Creator for all His gifts to you. Do it gladly, without somebody having to hold a rifle to your head.
If you see a video ad below this post, please understand that I have no control over these ads, and that I do not necessarily endorse the product.
As Thanksgiving comes and goes, most of us will feast on turkey, ham and many other wonderful foods. But you can get too much of a good thing– even fried chicken.
Fried chicken is so popular at church meals in the South, that some people call it “gospel bird.” But Dan Spencer from Thomasville, Georgia, tells about a preacher who had too much gospel bird. I don’t know if this story is true or not, but it makes a good point.
This particular minister was preaching a week-long series of revival sermons. Each day, he was invited to eat at the home of a different member of the congregation. And every day, they served the same thing– fried chicken. Most preachers like fried chicken, but not this man, which only made matters worse. Finally, he came to the last meal of the week, and when he sat down to eat, he looked and saw in front of him the same dish: fried chicken. The lady of the house asked the visiting preacher to ask God’s blessing on the meal, and this is what he prayed:
“Lord, I have it hot
and I’ve had it cold
I’ve had it young
and I’ve had it old
I’ve had it tender
and I’ve had it tough.
And thank you, Lord,
I’ve had enough!”
Sometimes we feel like that in life. Sometimes we just get to the point that we’ve had enough. We wonder if we can take any more of the troubles that life dishes out to us, such as financial problems, health problems and family problems. Sometimes we feel overwhelmed, even if it’s a good thing, we can get overloaded with work and busyness.
Thanksgiving is a wonderful time for us to stop and remember that in Jesus Christ, we can find peace when we’ve had enough. As Christ said, “I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world” (John 16:33, HCSB).
So pass the chicken. I think I can take one more bite.
Copyright 2012 by Bob Rogers
A Baptist pastor accepted the call to a church in Sledge, Mississippi. The day that he moved in, a 90-year-old woman drove up and greeted him in his driveway. “I’m Mrs. Irby,” she said. “I was a Presbyterian until my husband died, then I went back to the Methodist Church. But I don’t ever intend on coming to your church. I just came by to say welcome to the community.” With that, she drove off, spinning wheels and throwing dirt and rocks all over the new pastor.
So the pastor was surprised months later, when Mrs. Irby showed up one Sunday morning at the Baptist church. Early in the service, the pastor asked everybody to stand and greet one another. Mrs. Irby started to head out the door. The Baptists asked her where she was going, and she said, “In my church, when you stand, it’s time to go.” They helped her back to her pew to stay for the rest of the service. The pastor began to preach, and Mrs. Irby shouted loudly to the young lady beside her, “When is he ever gonna quit?” The congregation chuckled, and the pastor wrapped up his sermon quickly. Mrs. Irby stood to go. As she greeted the pastor at the door, she said, “The only reason I came here today is that the Methodists didn’t have church because their pipes busted. But I didn’t get a thing out of your sermon. Next time I’ll have to remember to bring my hearing aids.” And with that, she was out the door, never to return.
Which reminds me: you only get out of church what you put into it. The psalmist says, “Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!” (Psalm 100:2, 4, ESV). Come to church with a prayer in your heart, a smile on your face, a Bible in your hand, and if you need them, glasses on your eyes and hearing aids in your ears, so that you don’t miss what God wants to say to you.
I read about a kindergarten teacher who prepared her class for Thanksgiving by telling them all about the Pilgrims coming over on the Mayflower and settling at Plymouth Rock. She told how the Pilgrims endured their first winter and celebrated their blessings in a feast with the local Indians. One little girl went home and told her mom every detail that she could remember. Her mother asked what the Pilgrims and Indians ate that first Thanksgiving. Stumped by the question, the little girl said, “I can’t remember, Mommy, but you can ask my teacher. She was there!”
Well, the teacher might not have been there, but we would all do well to remember what happened there on that first Thanksgiving. Many Americans have forgotten that it was to God that the Pilgrims gave thanks. In the famous “Mayflower Compact” that they adopted on November 11, 1620 are these words: “We whose names are underwritten… having undertaken for ye glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith… a voyage to plant ye first colony in ye norther parts of Virginia… covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politick…”
The Pilgrims settled at Plymouth in order to advance the Christian faith. They celebrated the first Thanksgiving to give thanks to God for His blessings. We weren’t there when it happened, but let us never neglect their spirit of gratitude. “The earth has produced its harvest; God our God blesses us… and all the ends of the earth will fear Him.” (Psalm 67:6-7, HCSB.)
Copyright 2011 by Bob Rogers