So whatever happened”Happy New Year?”
It has quarantined and socially distanced. And buried under a blizzard of “breaking news” — or “heartbreaking news.”
So how could we describe 2020? Stressful. Scared. abominable.
How about thankful? For real?
If you’ve never been to Manhattan during a typical Christmas season, you’ll be overwhelmed by the crush of buses, cabs, clueless drivers and herds of aggressive people. But take an elevator to the top of Freedom Tower and prepare for a change.
Suddenly there is the stunning whole – the rivers, Lady Liberty in the harbour, the oasis of Central Park, the ring of bridges. This elevator ride can lift your spirits because you can see the beauty above the chaos.
That’s what giving thanks does. And in this year of so much sadness and loss, this uplift is needed more than ever.
I mourn this Thanksgiving for all of the missing family and friends – including our own.
I mourn the broken dreams, the closed shops and schools, the missing paychecks, a wounded nation.
But sadness and gratitude can coexist. Perhaps it must exist if hope is to conquer despair.
We can be thankful this Thanksgiving for a year that has opened our eyes to the things – and people – that really matter.
Thanksgiving was born amid great tragedy and loss. HU Westermayer points out that “the pilgrims built seven times more tombs than huts. No American was more impoverished than these who nevertheless reserve a day of thanksgiving.”
It was hard to be thankful when the day after our grandson graduated, my wife—the love of my life—was suddenly gone.
I couldn’t be thankful that she was gone. But I found myself very grateful for what she had gone to.
We both believed in the scriptural promise that being “absent from the body” is “present with the Lord.” I could mourn our loss but be grateful for her gain. Heaven. No more pain, death or sadness. And Jesus.
I mourn the years we won’t have – I love the many years we had.
Like this elevator to greater vision, loss can help us see some blessings we might otherwise have missed.
For example, our losses exposed the two ruses of life. The things that really matter. And the things that really don’t. Our “normal” pace tends to mess up these lists. Sometimes it takes a seismic wake-up call to fix them.
When my wife went into a code blue heart crisis years ago, I almost lost her. But something happened through that trauma. I “reappreciated” this amazing woman. In all my busyness, I had subconsciously come to take her for granted. From that crisis to our final moments ten years later, I have come to appreciate her more and more.
We can be thankful this Thanksgiving for a year that has opened our eyes to the things – and people – that really matter. After a disaster destroys homes, people often say, “It’s okay. Because we still have each other. And that is what it is about.”
This realization will produce a page-length list of people and experiences and lasting treasures for which to thank God.
A “life shake” like 2020 can also open our eyes to beauty we might otherwise overlook. The COVID-safe magic of a sunset, the change of seasons, or a child’s laughter. Even the blessings who live next door or down the street. These neighbors we hardly knew.
And then there are gifts that are less inspirational but potentially life-changing. Because a “life quake” can reveal what we need to fix. Just as catastrophes uncover fatal flaws in a foundation or a dike.
The strange events of 2020 have forced a lot of time together – or alone. A shift that may have uncovered some unresolved cracks in a marriage, dysfunction in our family, or even a darkness in our own souls.
Why should anyone be thankful for that? Because facing these revelations could save a marriage, a child — or even a life.
My heartiest “thank you” in this year of so many losses goes to the things we cannot lose. Things the Bible calls “eternal.”
A Bible writer who had suffered terribly said: “We do not look at the difficulties we see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone; but what we cannot see will stand forever” (2 Corinthians 4:18).
Someone said, “There are only two things that will be left when time is up. The people that God made. And the book he gave us.”
This book, the Bible, is full of promises that have sustained people for thousands of years. I stand on these promises like rocks on the shore that have weathered every storm. And I see people with priceless worth and eternal future.
Four days after the horror of September 11, 2001, President Bush spoke at the Interfaith Day of Prayer at the National Cathedral. He concluded with a reading from the Scriptures, which says, “Nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39).
This Thanksgiving, I am deeply grateful—perhaps more than ever—for this anchor that holds.
Yes, in a year of sorrow there is hope in thanksgiving.
Your elevator is waiting.
Ron Hutchcraft is an author, speaker, founder and President of Ron Hutchcraft Ministries and On Eagles’ Wings Native American Youth Outreach. His new book “hope when your heart breaks‘ will be released in January 20201. His popular radio feature ‘A word with you’ can be heard daily in 5 languages on over 1,300 stations around the world.