Playwright Tennessee Williams once said that the secret to happiness is insensitivity. I disagree, but I can see his point. I am so thankful for my faithful husband and healthy kids, but what about those whose marriages have fallen apart or whose children are dying (or those who cannot have children)? I’m so thankful for our jobs and our pantry full of food, but what about the many who are hungry and unemployed? I’m thankful that I’ve been experiencing a long season of remission from an auto-immune disease that used to cause me pain, but what about those who are still waiting for healing and relief? I’m so thankful for the opportunity to worship God freely, but what about brothers and sisters throughout the world who are tortured, and even killed, for giving thanks to God? Is it right for me to be grateful for my blessings when others are suffering?
I do think we should take the command to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) seriously, and if we can’t thank God for the good things in our lives, we certainly won’t be able to thank Him for the hard things. Still, there are moments when it’s hard to have joy in such a broken world. That’s where the Psalms are helpful. Whether lament or praise, they all point back to the character of God. The refrain, “give thanks to the Lord, for He is good and His love endures forever,” (found in Psalm 100, 107, and 118) point to be the source and the object of all our blessings. And He will never change.
Whether it is a year when “your barns are filled to overflowing and your vats with new wine” (Proverbs 3:10) or a year when “the fig tree does not bud, there are no grapes on the vines, the olive crop fails, and there are no sheep in the pen” (Habakkuk 3:17), God is good and His love endures forever. This is true in victory or defeat, with a full pantry or an empty one, with a whole heart or a broken one. If every blessing on my list were to disappear tomorrow, even through the pain, this would be true. If my future is full of light and laughter, this is the true source of joy to which every beautiful moment points. This is the song that the mourning and the rejoicing can sing together on this coming Thursday and all the days that follow: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever!”