Chaplains Corner

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Bob Meissner
  • 452 AMW Chaplains Corps

How do we say, “thank you” when life is not the way it is supposed to be – when nothing makes sense – when the light at the end of the tunnel looks like a train coming your way? This is not to say life is always bad and things are always going wrong.  When life is good, it’s relatively easy to be thankful.  But we all hit those times in life where being thankful can seem like a monumental challenge.  What then?

I’m writing this article, between Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving Day, and I can’t help but reflect on what it means to be thankful, even during life’s challenges.  Saying “thank you,” whether to God, a friend, co-worker, family member or even a stranger, is a conscious choice.  It’s about choosing to put our life experience in perspective, especially when we’re troubled or anxious.  This doesn’t mean ignoring or downplaying difficulties in my life, it means managing them in a positive way that is not only healthy for me, but for those around me as well.

Ann Voskamp, author of the book, “One Thousand Gifts, A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are” writes these words: “Feel thanks and it’s absolutely impossible to feel angry.  We can only experience one emotion at a time.  And we get to choose – which emotion do we want to feel?”  It’s challenging, but possible, to develop an attitude of gratitude.  It begins with developing a life perspective that chooses to look for the good, even in times of trouble.

Matthew Henry (1662-1714), who wrote a commentary on the whole Bible, was robbed one night.  Afterward he penned this prayer, “I thank you first because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my purse (wallet), they did not take my life; third, although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was not I who robbed.”

When the worries and fears of life suddenly show up at our doorstep, it may be difficult to find reasons to be thankful.  We hope, pray and make plans that life will turn around and get better somehow.  Sometimes it does, and quickly, but sometimes the process is painfully slow.  Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, says challenging times can make us either “better or bitter.”  The choice is ours. 

In my job, I provide pastoral care to those in our church who are facing tough times.  I’m continually amazed how many people can, amid deep suffering, find reasons to be thankful.  It’s not always easy for them.  I go hoping to lift their spirits and provide comfort.  I leave feeling blessed and realizing that my visit was as much for me as it was for them.  All because they chose to look for reasons to be thankful.

As you reflect on this time between Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving, look for reasons to give thanks.  As the title suggests, sometimes miracles hide.  There are times when we may have to look for reasons to give thanks.  An old hymn reminds us to “Count your blessings – name them one by one.”  It might turn our prayers, thoughts and lives around.