Question: Thanksgiving is this week, and I’m having a hard time getting up for it. I’m usually a positive person, but all of life’s difficulties decided to visit me this year. And the mess the world is in only adds to my feelings of despair. How can I get past this?
Jim: I think a lot of folks are where you’re at right now. These aren’t easy times. It’s been said that “gratitude is the mother of all virtues.” But our feelings of gratitude run only as deep as the thing they’re rooted in. Ultimately, our expressions of thanksgiving are a reflection of and stem from where we’ve placed our hope. Because while it’s good to give thanks for life’s blessings, life’s circumstances will always be shaky and uncertain.
Perhaps no one knew this more than Martin Rinkart. Rinkart was a Lutheran minister who served the German town of Eilenburg during the Thirty Years’ War. This long and destructive conflict remains one of the most devastating in all of European history. Wars, plagues, pestilence and famine reduced the German population by 40 percent, and as a strategic city, Eilenburg experienced the brunt of it. Though destitute himself, Rinkart provided refuge for victims in his home. In 1637, as the city’s only surviving pastor, Rinkart performed over 4,000 funerals — as many as 50 funerals a day — including that of his wife.
Yet in the midst of this unimaginable pain and suffering, Rinkart wrote what many consider to be our finest Thanksgiving hymn, “Now Thank We All Our God.” A study of its words reveals the source of Rinkart’s unshakeable gratitude — and I’d encourage you to read them.
I’d also encourage you to call our Focus counselors. They’re here to listen and help in times like these.
Question: My father-in-law insists on carving our Thanksgiving turkey. He considers it a position of honor. The problem is that he does a terrible job! My beautifully cooked turkey gets absolutely mauled! I don’t want to insult him by giving the job to someone else — it means so much to him. How can I fix this in a loving way?
Dr. Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: Planning and preparing the Thanksgiving meal represents an incredible gift. It always seems a shame that so much time and effort goes into this labor of love, only to have everything devoured and done in a matter of moments. Perhaps this is a part of your own frustration. Regardless, I commend your wanting to provide a special Thanksgiving experience for everyone, while also protecting the feelings of and guarding your relationship with your father-in-law.
It’s important that you resist the temptation to dismiss your feelings. Resentment will only build, and growth and resolution won’t be realized unless you’re able to identify why this is an issue for you. After you’ve explored your feelings and arrived at the heart of the matter, you may decide to stay with the status quo. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use the opportunity to create a “win” for everybody.
You could, for instance, start a new tradition of taking a family picture with your beautiful bird before it goes under the knife. You might also further honor your father-in-law by publically expressing how much you’ve appreciated his carving leadership, and how you’d like to preserve the tradition by having him someday confer that responsibility to your husband when he’s ready.
In the end, you may find that this sacrificial act is merely an extension and enhancement of everything you’re trying to accomplish — serving friends and family and providing an atmosphere where a spirit of love and thanksgiving is felt and expressed.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.