Choosing to be thankful because of Jesus

Sunday, August 26, 2012

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down over red velvet cupcakes to hear the story of a woman in her early 90s.

She met and married her high school sweetheart shortly following graduation. He pastored several churches outside of the Kansas City, Mo., metro area and they built a modest and good life together. Unexpectedly, after retirement -- due to some rare medical conditions -- he passed away.

The church that she was part of offered a grief support group. Struggling with the loss of her husband, she set out to attend the group. When she arrived at the door she was surprised at who greeted her. The man standing at the door greeting everyone was a friend whom she had not seen in 55 years.

In fact, the last time they saw each other he was dating her best friend in high school. (He and her best friend later got married.) While in high school she, her husband, this man and his wife spent a tremendous amount of time together.

The two, reuniting after decades, eventually married each other. Nine years later they moved to an assisted living apartment together. One week later still surrounded by unopened boxes he was taken to a hospital over an hour's drive away only to return in need of greater care than either expected. Not too long after this he moved home to heaven where there are no boxes to unpack.

In telling this story without missing a beat she looked me in eye and says, "I'm thankful for the time I had."

I'm not sure I would choose thankfulness. I'm certain there were days of grief. Times wondering how things were going to be. I have no doubt that there are still days of just missing the other. Like an amputated appendage; even though you know it's gone it still feels there.

The Bible is full of verses that challenge us to choose to give thanks. To choose to embrace rejoicing that is beyond our conditions. To wholeheartedly "in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, always give thanks for everything to God the Father" (Ephesians 5:20).

For me, faith in Christ alone has enabled joy. Knowing from the Scriptures that the eternal kingdom of heaven is much larger than the short kingdom of self empowers thankfulness beyond conditions. I will choose to be thankful for my soul has been bought with a price.

Rob Hurtgen is a husband, father, minister and writer. Read more from him at

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