This week in the US we celebrate our Thanksgiving holiday. And then promptly go out and buy way more stuff the next day. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s what we have right now.
Today a good friend asked me what I’m grateful for and I gave truthful answers, but apparently he found them to be shallow and way too typical. I said friends, family, job, life, etc. I meant that. I know that 2016 has really sucked for a lot of people and for the world in general, but my year, which started out rough, has actually ended up rather well. But this friend wanted more. Our relationship is characterized by some pretty deep conversation so his prompting was warranted.
The Bible calls us to be thankful for all kinds of things that sound awful. For difficult times, for persecution, for testing. As I’ve gotten older those things have made more and more sense to me. I’m not inviting them, but I kind of get it. I have the benefit of more hindsight and I see how, as James says, the test of faith produces perseverance.
I do a lot of reading on neuroscience and how it relates to leadership and on Carol Dweck’s Mindset and all the research shows that intelligence really isn’t the best predictor of success. It’s perseverance. In the parable of the sower, Jesus talked about the seed that grew up in shallow soil and it sprouted quickly, but as soon as the sun started to beat down on it, it withered and died.
We’re about to enter some rough times in this country. White nationalists have been emboldened by the new president. Hate crimes have increased exponentially. People are being put in power who are unabashed racists, xenophobes, and Islamophobes.Tax plans are being put out that will increase taxes on the middle class and on single mothers and offer huge breaks to the most wealthy. The testing of our faith is coming and strangely, I am a little bit thankful. I am not excited about it. I do not wish for it to come sooner. But I am thankful because I know the result of testing.
The church in Germany in the 1930s mostly failed a similar test, although there were those who stood up. I am already horrified by the number of so-called “Christian” leaders who have embraced what is going on. The Church in the US has had it really easy for, really, ever, and it’s made us kind of soft. We have arguments about carpet colors and musical styles while the Church internationally is being persecuted to a greater degree than any other time in history. We have sought out religious liberty to be our warm blanket of comfort and protection, somehow inserting that idea into the gospel, when Jesus himself promised us the complete opposite.
So today I am thankful for the tests that are coming and the good it will produce. I am thankful for God’s peace and comfort in difficult times. I am thankful for the calming that comes with age and the ability to edit one’s life and only include the people and habits that bring health and healing. I am thankful for the surface stuff, too. It all makes up my life and as I try to infuse gratitude into my daily practices I find that gratitude comes more easily. I am thankful not just today but everyday. For the testing of my faith produces perseverance.
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you