In This Time of Crisis, Give Thanks for the One Who has Overcome the World
To say that we live in a time of crisis is a quantum understatement. Wars and religious persecution abroad threaten our security and vital national interests. At home, abortion, anti-Semitism, the LGBTQ agenda, and a host of other matters cloud the country’s horizon.
Many of us and many of those we love wrestle with illness, psychological problems, job uncertainties, troubled children, substance abuse, and broken relationships. Divorce and cohabitation remain failed substitutes for the beauty of loving and faithful marriage between a man and a woman. The triumphs of technology enamor us even as its dangers haunt us.
Yet gratitude, which is never out of season, should especially fill our minds and hearts as we prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday. This is not because every circumstance is pleasant (although many are) and material prosperity is increasing (overall, it is).
We can, of course, be grateful for our remarkable country. The liberty we enjoy, protections we assume, and social order we take for granted are things unique in the long span of human history, and nowhere are they more prevalent than in the United States. As the great film director Frank Capra said, “For America, just for living here, I kiss the ground.”
But our beloved country, which is worth our best efforts to support, protect, and defend, is fallen and finite, as are all of us who live here. My hope is that my children will experience the same blessings I have as a citizen of what Lincoln called “the last, best hope of earth.” At some point, though, as with all nations, ours will fade into historical memory (unless Jesus returns first). This sad prospect is an undeniable consequence of life on a planet in which the cancer of sin metastasizes with each passing year.
With all of this, there is one constant, an immutable reality that cannot but offer enduring comfort and joy: Jesus Christ is Lord. He — the atoning friend of sinners, the triumphant risen savior — wins, in time and eternity.
All who have placed their trust in Him alone for the forgiveness they need and eternal life they crave find in Christ a present help in all their trouble. Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who labor and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, because I am gentle in kind in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). When we come to know Christ, we exchange the insufferable weight of sin for the lordship of a kind Master.
This does not mean that His “easy yoke” protects from all pain and sorrow. To the contrary, the Savior Who promises rest is the same one Who tells us to die to ourselves and follow Him (Luke 9:23). Do these things add up, or was Jesus merely “baiting and switching,” promising us peace while leading us into hardship?
This question misses the point. Jesus promised rest for our souls. He did not assure us that difficulties would evaporate as we accept His kingship over our lives. Indeed, He told the disciples, “In the world you will have tribulation” and “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you” (John 16:33a, 15:18). The Christian carries no exemption stamp on life’s ticket. Those slaughtered for their faith in Nigeria and imprisoned for their faith in North Korea bear witness to the fact that God, for His purposes, allows many of His people to know a depth of pain we American Christians can only imagine.
Rather, Christ promises to be with us in our struggles, to grieve as we grieve, to mourn as we mourn. And He tells us that what now seem like unendurable afflictions are really “light (and) momentary” and are “preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (II Corinthians 4:16-18).
It is hard to say this to someone who has lost a child, seen horrific things in war, or experienced aching hunger. But it would be more cruel not to say them, because they are true and offer the only real solace we can know in the curdle of this world. Christ gives us His peace through the love of family and our brothers and sisters in Him, through the truths of His Word upon which we must meditate and from which we can draw the assurance of His love.
This Thanksgiving, we would be remiss not to count all the blessings we know day by day. Sight and hearing, speech and touch. The capacity to taste and relish in our great and varied abundance of food. People who love us. Dinner table conversation and books and movies and friends and on and on. With these, many of us also know tragedy and longing, disappointment and mystification that life hasn’t turned out as we anticipated.
In it all, Christ is real. He has overcome the world. When we know as we are known, so will we.
Rob Schwarzwalder, Ph.D., is Senior Lecturer in Regent University's Honors College.