John A. Braun
The presence of Thanksgiving at the end of every November helps us to pause and count our blessings. That exercise will be repeated this year as we sit around the table with family and enjoy another Thanksgiving feast.
Some will sit alone. Yet the thoughtful will give thanks in the quiet and solitary places even when they are isolated from friends and family. We have many blessings. The quiet contemplation of them all is a healthy exercise.
There is a contrast! The loud and crowded shopping malls are also a kind of giving thanks. Their doorbuster prices and the crowds willing to stream through the stores are a testament to the blessings we have. It might be a good idea to remember that we should be thankful for the money we have to buy something new. By comparison with other parts of the world, our actions mark us as blessed with so much.
Whether we are laughing with family and friends, sitting quietly alone, or elbowing our way through a crowd, our lists of things to be thankful for should be long. Of course, they should include the blessings of forgiveness and eternal life we have in Christ. Because we have those blessings, our lives are filled with hope—another blessing to add to our lists.
Some Thanksgiving celebrations will have a sad note, perhaps seen in the empty chair at the table. The loved one may be separated by miles and life changes—military, new family, work, or other things that keep his or her usual place empty. But hope remains. It’s there in a couple of ways. We hope for their safe return. We hope our Lord will guide and protect them while they are away. We know they are in the hands of our gracious God and that inspires us to hope.
The empty chair may reveal more than a temporary absence. A husband, a wife, a child, another relative, or a friend is quietly asleep in death. We feel the emptiness, but we also feel hope. We know that the absent believer is with the Lord in heaven. That hope is based on the promise of Jesus, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even thought they die” (John 11:25). We also hope for a happy reunion in the presence of Jesus. That too is his promise, but we long for it in a hope based on his promises. Another hope sustains us. We hope the Lord will guide, comfort, and strengthen us not only in our sorrow over our absent loved one but also as we move forward with life.
Our dining room tables and living rooms are limited spaces. They cannot accommodate the larger circle of our family and friends. Some in our larger circle suffer. While they may be with their own families and friends, we still envelop them with our prayers as they face hardship, health issues, anxiety, or the wounds of life. Hope for them springs from the promises of Jesus too. We may not know their future or ours in this life, but we trust his promise that all will work out for the good for those who love Jesus. So we pray in hope. Even a permanently empty chair marks one who has fallen asleep in Jesus and has entered the glories of heaven.
Hope! That blessing won’t need to be replaced with next year’s model or because of the wear of everyday life. It remains bright and clear with every new day. It’s not just wishful thinking. Our Christian hope rests on the great promises of our Savior. Count hope among your blessings.
Author: John A. Braun
Volume 106, Number 11
Issue: November 2019