“If you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans. ”
I don’t know about you, but I had big plans for 2020. It was going to be a year of big changes attended by oversized expectations and new opportunities. I had goals.
And, then I didn’t.
And, certainly, the forty million-odd Americans who found themselves out of work through no fault of their own, and hundreds of thousands of shuttered business, all had their hope and dreams shattered as well. Many small companies, some representing a lifetime of someone’s work, will never reopen.
There’s an ancient adage that goes like this; if you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans.
But, the human toll of 2020 is worse. There are nearly a quarter of a million casualties in the United States alone. Many thousands more are affected by health issues from a 125-nanometer virus released into the world by the Chinese communist government. There are over 1.5 million dead globally, not including the actual deaths in China, which will never be known.
But the rest of the story is about the unknown and unnamed victims who died from being home-bound or isolated. Some yielded to addictions and overdoses, and others from loneliness cut off from their families and friends. Others missed medical attention or therapies. Perhaps the real toll will never be known.
Many of us have watched in bewilderment as the novel coronavirus has shown us the worst of our political class, especially at the state level. Too many of them demonstrated that not only were they petty and tyrannically inclined, but also fools. It cuts across party lines. We learned a lot about bent science and good science.
And, of course, there was the election.
But after a year of uncertainty, here is one absolute certainty. This year it’s more important than ever that we give thanks – that we have gratitude for what we do have, not what we don’t.
It’s counter-intuitive to our nature, but it’s an age-old lesson that is sure as rain. Scripture encourages us over 140 times to be thankful. And, 42 times, it reminds us of the power of gratitude – simply to be grateful, even in suffering.
The two words are bookends to a content life I have come to believe. Thankfulness is the conscious feeling of being pleased with a benefit, an outcome, or a kindness shown. Gratitude, though, is the appreciation for a benefit or kindness in a more profound, complex way that can lead to change or action.
Together, they have transformative emotional and intellectual power. The intentional practice of being thankful and grateful allows us to see beyond ourselves to the whole landscape of life. It’s like a map that can be used to find new locations and different routes to go around or over anything.
This year I am thinking of so many dear friends of mine who are battling terrible diseases. I’m amazed and encouraged by their reliance on thankfulness and motivating gratitude – for the love of family, the thrill of merely living another day, and the hope they have in tomorrow.
I’m also thinking about this great country and the promise of hope it has been to every generation that has stood on her soil. It’s uniqueness and exceptionalism was build on the back of thankfulness and gratitude. The haters will always hate, but America’s real grit can still be seen in average, every day, working Americans who quietly build families, businesses, and cities. And the tools they use are still thankfulness and gratitude.
It’s Thanksgiving week, the uniquely American holiday that reminds us that life is hard in every generation. But God is good. We’re still Americans. And for that, we can always give thanks with a grateful heart.