Ask Augustine with Dr. Paul Tambrino
Ask Augustine is a weekly column where professor/author Dr. Paul Tambrino discusses various theological questions with wit, clarity and substance.
Question #41 – How Is It Possible to Be Thankful This Season When There’s So Much Economic Uncertainty?
For the past year, we have been on a roller coaster ride through a labyrinth of economic ups and downs, including constant bouts with record high inflation and skyrocketing home prices.
A lot of people are perplexed, confused, some despondent and downcast, some looking forward to great clouds of gloom and not exactly in the mood for Thanksgiving and the Christmas season.
Maybe you share some of those feelings? It doesn’t seem like it’s a time that you can be very thankful. However, we are told in the infallible Word of God that we are to “always” give thanks “in every thing” (1 Thess. 5:18, Eph. 5:20).
On Thanksgiving evening in 1931 when the Depression was in full roar, when dust bowls occupied the once green fields in the Midwest, when the economy was in the sub-basement, when lines were formed for food, when nothing could have looked gloomier, Dr. Walter Maier, who was the national radio voice of The Lutheran Hour, stated over the airways, “God’s mercy and tenderness are beyond the power of measurement and computation.”“We are told in the infallible Word of God that we are to always give thanks in every thing.”
In the midst of all the problems of the Depression Era, Dr. Maier was saying that if we simply look carefully, we would see that we have much to be thankful for.
Connected with the commands to be grateful for all things, there is a promise from Romans 8:28 that tells us “we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
Apart from that promise, we would no doubt, in many circumstances in life, be exceedingly depressed and gloomy.
True, there are many today who are very concerned about what the economic future might bring, and yet we have the promise of God that whatever it is, He is going to turn it to our good.“In the midst of all the problems of the Depression Era, Dr. Maier was saying that if we simply look carefully, we would see that we have much to be thankful for.”
That is a wonderful promise, which makes it possible for us to be thankful in whatever situation we are in.
It seems that sometimes, whichever way we turn, we run into puzzles or problems or profundities we cannot solve. And yet we have the promise of Christ that He will be with us and never leave us, and the promise of God that He will turn it all to our good.
Therefore, while I do not know what will happen in the next week or the next year or the next decade, I can rest in the true fact that God is still with His own.
Remember, He does not ever say that all things work to good for everyone, as many people frequently state, but it says that God works all things together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose (Rom. 8:28).
I recall one day that I decided I was going to practice being more grateful than I had been. In fact, I was going to be grateful for everything I could think of, and I accomplished that by following Dr. Maier’s advice; I looked for things to be thankful for.“While I do not know what will happen in the next week or the next year or the next decade, I can rest in the true fact that God is still with His own.”
I opened my eyes to the many blessings God had given to me, and I suggest that you consider taking that approach as well.
That morning as I awoke I thanked God for the fact that I had been asleep. I’d known many nights when I didn’t sleep at all, and getting a restful night was a blessing to thank God for.
I noticed that the night was disappearing and the light was beginning to shine through my window again. I thanked Him that I had eyes to see that. There are many people who never see the sunrise, who will never see the sun come up.
I realized I was lying in a comfortable bed and I thanked Him for that. There are millions of people in this world who have no beds at all, who sleep on the ground or on dirt inside a hut. Or worse, there are many others who sleep in fear for their lives in countries reeling from war and corruption.
Then I placed my feet on the carpet and I realized that there are many people who cannot get out of bed in the morning unless somebody is there to help them.“Thanksgiving and being thankful is an art as well as a command. And like all art, whether singing, playing an instrument, painting, or whatever, it takes practice. We need to practice the art of Thanksgiving.”
I started to walk to the bathroom and realized again how millions of people could not walk to the bathroom.
I continued thinking in that way throughout the day. It made me realize how ungrateful I am most of the time. I am sure there are probably hundreds of things in the brief period I described that were blessings that I did not even think about.
So I would say to you, Thanksgiving and being thankful is an art as well as a command. And like all art, whether singing, playing an instrument, painting, or whatever, it takes practice. We need to practice the art of Thanksgiving.
We can think about the bad things that have happened and that could happen. But let’s be thankful that we live in a nation that has the freedom that it has.
Let’s be thankful knowing that God has the heart of the king in His hands. He is still the sovereign ruler of all and He is still working out His perfect purposes for our lives, irrespective of our feelings, emotions or temporary seasons of economic uncertainty.
May God help each one of us to practice the art of Thanksgiving, especially in this Thanksgiving season, that we might become more pleasing in the site of our loving, heavenly Father.
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