Giving thanks for all things possible through faith
Fall is my favorite time of the year. In addition to being cooler, crisper and more colorful with the changing of the leaves, fall also brings on my two favorite holidays: Halloween and Thanksgiving Day. Halloween is good fun, but Thanksgiving is one of those days that makes you stop and reflect on all the blessings that may too often be taken for granted.
Several friends and I are taking the Thanksgiving Challenge on Facebook, posting the reason or reasons for thankfulness on each day of November. We have expressed our gratitude for our children, grandchildren, homes, parents, siblings, jobs, spouses, friends, pets, the incredible beauty of the Earth at this time of year and more. In one of my posts, I was thankful for a good book, a hot cup of tea and warm Snuggie to cuddle up in on a cold night. And I am truly thankful to God for the blessings He has so abundantly provided, but what about the things that on the surface don’t appear to be blessings?
In 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18 (New International Version): “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Hmmm. So, I’m supposed to be thankful for depression, fibromyalgia and arthritis? Seriously?
That’s what the Bible says, so I reckon that’s what it means. Let’s think about this.
If I did not suffer with depression, I would not have been writing about it with any sense of compassion for others who suffer with the same disease. I would not understand the pain, both physical and mental, that it produces. When I say, “You can be productive and regain the joy you think you’ve lost,” I can say it from personal experience, which gives others the hope that if I can do it, they can do it. When I say I still struggle but I know this, too, shall pass, others know their struggles with mental illness are normal, if anything about this disease can be called “normal,” after all. When I openly say I take medication to control the disease, it gives someone who may feel a sense of shame about having a mental illness the boldness to get the help they need. No big deal. We do what we need to do to do what we need to do.
Same thing with fibromyalgia and arthritis. Since I know how this feels, I can encourage others and — this is important — let them encourage me, too.
On page 1C today, you will see the story of Loretta Pawlus and the grief support group she has started at Monte Vista Baptist Church. No one would ever be thankful for the loss of a child, especially to suicide, but Loretta is thankful that her journey through that valley of the shadow of death has resulted in a ministry to help others walk through. As she told me, we walk through it, we don’t sit down and stay there — and although we slide back down the hillside into the valley at times, it takes less time and less struggle to make our way back up the hill again. By sharing what she has learned, her son’s death was not in vain.
We are told in Philippians 4:6 (NIV): “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
This is my prayer, offered in thanksgiving, that anyone reading this column today will gain comfort in knowing others are there to understand and to help. We are not defined by our afflictions. We are, instead, refined by them. Learn the lessons. Give thanks for them, not the heartbreaking circumstances. Pass along what you learn and make someone else’s way a bit easier. And it’s OK to let them make your way easier, too.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
Linda Albert is Sunday Life editor and a staff writer for The Daily Times. Her column runs every Sunday in the Life section. You may contact her at 981-1168 or (firstname.lastname@example.org)