Thanksgiving time always gives us an opportunity to stop and express our thankfulness for the many blessings in our lives. The Bible tells us in Colossians 3:15, “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you are called in one body; and be thankful.”
But do we only show thankfulness when we truly feel thankful? Many times we need to have a bit of a “perspective change” in order to truly express our gratitude for all the many blessings we may not always remember to appreciate in our lives. We choose what perspective to view all the different circumstances in our lives. Whether they are joyous ones or disappointments; we choose how we respond and the attitude we take each and every day. In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, we read, “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
I admit that I have often thought, “Well, this is great advice in theory, but much more difficult in practice. How can we be thankful for the situations in our lives that cause us anguish, discomfort, stress, anger or even heartbreak?” Sometimes, the best answer is to look at our situation through different lenses. For example, in the work we do here at World Relief Spokane, we welcome refugees who have suffered great calamity in their lives each week at our Spokane airport. Although World Relief is not the agency that actually brings refugees in our city, we are the designated national agency to welcome them and assist in their initial resettlement process. Refugees arrive from a wide variety of circumstances and histories. From those who are well educated, perhaps with PhDs in their home countries and speaking four or five languages, to those whose only experience in life is trying to survive and carve out a living in the jungles of SE Asia or the deserts of Africa. Most refugees fall somewhere in the middle of these extremes, but all share one common, overwhelming response to finally arriving in Spokane, WA after an exhausting journey from deplorable conditions in a refugee camp. It is this common response that I choose to remember whenever I feel it is difficult to be thankful for my present situation.
Now, if you have read this far, you may be asking what is this common response I speak of? It is one of true thankfulness. Imagine you have lived under extreme persecution from your government, your neighbors, and maybe even your own relatives and you have to leave your home, your country, your friends, and your belongings in the middle of the night. How would you feel? Where would you go? Many of the estimated 54 million displaced people in the world today actually experience running for their lives to a place of perceived safety. This place of refuge is usually a refugee camp where they wait and wait until some sort of viable solution can be found for them. How long do they wait you may wonder? The average length of time a refugee waits in a refugee camp before a change in the country they fled from allows them to return or a third county like the U.S. grants them asylum to be resettled, is 17 years! Think on that time span for a moment. If our current struggles with daily life lasted 17 years, I imagine we would also know how to be truly thankful to arrive in a place that we can finally call home, find peace, support our families and educate our children. This is what we see and experience on a weekly basis at World Relief.
Once we compare our lives with those who show true thankfulness of just being alive and arriving at a place of safety, it allows us an opportunity for a “perspective change.” This Thanksgiving season, let’s choose to be thankful for the many, many blessings we sometimes take for granted while living in this country and city. And if you ever come across a recently arrived refugee, ask him or her to share with you why they are so thankful to be accepted through the U.S. refugee resettlement program and living in Spokane. It may change your perspective for the better! It may also encourage to follow the biblical principle in Psalms 100:4, “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.”
World Relief Spokane is thankful for our faithful supporters– we give thanks for you! We praise God for His faithfulness and provision. This holiday season, let us #StandForTheVulnerable together in joy and hope.