1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances.”And so, as Thanksgiving approaches, I find myself preparing stock answers for the obligatory question that will inevitably be brought up at family gatherings, church services, and small groups... 

“What are you thankful for this year?”

Certainly, I have plenty to be thankful for. A thoughtful inventory of my life would result in the obvious conclusion that I am blessed far beyond what I deserve. But if I’m honest, that is not the default position of my heart.

My list of thanks is clumsily being formed while my list of worries is readily available. Instinctively, my heart drifts towards a friend recently diagnosed with cancer, a couple struggling through the adoption process, my own marital stress, and the general bumps and bruises that come with ministry.

Additionally, it almost feels inappropriate to be grateful at a time when evil seems to have the upper hand. The recent terror attacks in Paris have shaken people to their core. France has not witnessed this level of violence since World War II. Mass murder is supposed to be limited to the third world deserts of collapsing countries, not tourist destinations and first world capitals.

What good can come from this? And how can anyone be thankful in light of these events?

Then I remember who actually wrote "give thanks in all circumstances." It was a religious extremist who had systematically terrorized those who disagreed with his beliefs. This Thanksgiving, as we process both our personal and global concerns, let us not forget the unbelievable fact that the man who wrote 1 Thessalonians was once a terrorist.

Jesus is still in the business of changing Sauls into Pauls. He loves rebels and outcasts, enemies and doubters like you and me. There is no situation that is too bleak, no night too dark, and no soul too far away.

And for this, I am thankful.
"Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near..." Eph. 2:12-13

Bubby Bryan, DOC
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