Thanksgiving Devotional By Sam Marchetta, Director of Spiritual Care
25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. Acts 16:25-27
Gratitude is most profound when life is not exactly how we would like it to be. I have come to the realization that it takes little effort to be grateful when life is going well. However, when life is hard, when I am stressed, grinding for joy, or when I feel overwhelmed by all that is wrong expressing gratitude becomes a choice.
In the above scripture passage, Paul is in prison for sharing his faith. A first-century jail would have been horrific in so many ways. Yet, we find Paul expressing gratitude to God in the midst of these difficult circumstances. Paul’s choice to express gratitude in difficulty had a life-changing benefit for him and others. God moved on his behalf, an earthquake broke out in the city, and Paul, by an act of God and nature, was saved from this prison. I see several growing edges for me as I approach Thanksgiving:
- Paul changed his attitude before his situation changed: He did not see a change in his situation for the better until he first changed his attitude. Often, we want the reversal of this. We want life to get better and then we will change our attitudes and behaviors. This usually doesn’t work. Gratitude is a purposeful decision in life’s most difficult moments.
- Paul’s gratitude impacted others around him: Attitude is contagious. As Paul began to sing others were listening to him. The whole jail was impacted by his attitude. A good attitude is contagious and makes the people and culture around us better.
- Paul’s gratitude led him from his confinement to a spacious place: Gratitude provided his spaciousness. It freed him from his confinement and opened his life up to more experiences and opportunities for blessing. So it is with us! When we recognize the good things in life then, in a sense, we are expanding our life, and making room for good things: people, relationships, and opportunities to come our way.
One of my favorite hymns to remember during the Thanksgiving holiday is Now Thank We all our God. I suspect, like me, that many of you do not know the story of Martin Rinkart. Martin lived in the mid’s 1600s in the German town of Eilenburg. He was a minister during the Thirty Years War of 1618-1648. Eilenburg became an overcrowded refuge town, and the fugitives present suffered from pandemics and famine. Martin was the lone minister in town and personally buried 4,480 people due to the pandemic. It was said that he would officiate 40-50 funerals a day. He was surrounded by all that was wrong in life: death, poverty, injustice, and heartache. Martin continued to minister to the city trusting for better days. He never lost hope, even though he had every reason to. When it finally looked like peace was in grasp, Rinkart penned the words below- a reminder to be grateful to God for all things, at all times.
Now Thank we all our God, with hearts and hands and voices; Who wondrous things hath done, in whom the world rejoices. Who, from our mother’s arms, hath led us on way, with countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.