Thanksgiving is usually a time of celebrating our abundance, of setting aside a special day to remember where that abundance actually comes from and to give thanks to our God for it. Sometimes we even reflect on how God has put these gifts into our hands not for us ourselves but that we might share what we have and who we are with others. If Jesus could feed the multitude with a few small fish and barley loaves, apparently insignificant resources which multiplied in the hands of His followers, what could He do through us if we set our minds to use what God has given us not as gifts to us but as gifts for us to share and to distribute?
Let me turn in a slightly different direction, though. All of the current prefaces in the Roman rite for the Eucharist begin with "We do well always and everywhere to give you thanks." The older Latin version said "It is truly right and just, fitting and availing to salvation for us to thank you everywhere and at all times." I would expand on the ideas in both of them to say that we should be giving thanks to God at every moment, in every situation, for absolutely everything: all is indeed grace.
But that means first that I must believe deeply that God is truly wise and loving, not just in the abstract or at a distance but specifically and personally in His relationship to me. And then, in that faith, I have to believe that He is willing to call me to the "narrow way," to gift me even with poverty, sickness, pain, and hardship not as punishment but as part of His love. If I do believe that God is in fact, in reality, here and now loving me as a Father and doing so in infinite wisdom, then I have to trust that this is indeed what is best for me, that He is giving me not a viper or a stone but bread for life.
And I must give thanks for that as well, even for that. The tragedies, the hard times, the tears, all the "difficult gifts" have forced me to look carefully at my life and at what I actually do value. Do I truly put myself into God's hands? Or do I, as fussy and immature as a two-year-old, insist that God do things my way before I can trust and love and obey Him? Do I have to receive only the sweet and the pleasing from God before I can really put my self and my life in His hands?
I have lived through my struggles and my pains and grown stronger and more clear-eyed because of them. I now live grateful, not for having survived but for the growth that God has given me as I welcome and learn to use everything in my life properly, as His gifts.
And I give thanks for this love, today and all days, always and everywhere, in every situation that He gifts me with.
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