November is the month in our country when we turn our hearts toward Thanksgiving. And thanksgiving. Around the table next week, many of us will be asked to name what we're thankful for this year. And, as we've approached that, I've also seen the upswell of people who have because of a particular (wonderful and thoughtful) book or simply because it's a good practice, taken a moment each day to name what the small or large thing for which they are thankful.
I'm certain God is pleased with such lists, pleased with such re-settings of people's attitudes. After all, we are explicitly told--admonished, even--by Paul to "Be thankful." I have to admit (and take no pride in this) that I'd fall down on the job, if I tried to spend an entire month making such a list. I'm just not a list person. This doesn't exempt me from the mandate, of course.
However, I was struck the other day by one particular list I've seen, my niece's. Rather than simply finding the good, the sweet, the lovely, which she could easily find (she's a young mom with an adorable one year old son in whom she fully delights), she's been facing the things that normally frustrate and annoy her, drive her crazy and exhaust her. Then turning them on their heads to find joy IN them. To see them as joys rather than pain. To see that God can use every circumstance in her life for good. She's willing herself to say, "I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through Him who gives me strength."
And make no mistake about it, it is Christ who gives strength for such a list as my niece's. In comparison to a list of what is good (and don't get me wrong, this is a GODLY pursuit and nothing to sneer at. Read Philippians 4: 8, if you don't believe me!), finding contentment, the good, JOY in life's difficulties is hard stuff.
On the flip side, of course, is the idea that we don't get caught up in our own goodness. Our own credentials, some might say. We don't consider ourselves more highly than we ought, but look at the whole of life--of our lives--as gifts. And are thankful on a daily basis for what we've been given. So perhaps, in the end, these lists of thankfulness go together. The good and the frustrating, the amazing things we see and experience as the awkward and uncomfortable together form a whole that is His work in us. And should cause us to rejoice. He is at work in us.
Such work is Kingdom work. As Paul says in Philippians 3, "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me."