David L. Goetsch
We Can Be Thankful - Even During the COVID-19 Pandemic (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Updated: Nov 29, 2020
The thing I like best about Thanksgiving is not the turkey, the dressing, or even the pies; although I do like these things. In fact, the word “like” is an understatement. It doesn’t come close to describing how I feel about our annual Thanksgiving feast. But even more than the meal, I like the spirit of gratitude that accompanies the holiday.
Every year on Thanksgiving people all over the country take a break from their usual routines to reflect on the blessings God has given them. This is important. In fact, few things are more important than showing our gratitude to God. This is what the Psalmist meant when he wrote in Psalm 9:1: “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.”
This year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is even more important than ever to step back and reflect on the things we are thankful for. The Corona Virus has turned so many lives upside down that a lot of people are not feeling thankful this year, especially those who were unable to spend the holiday with family because of the pandemic. I know how that feels. I can still remember drawing the short straw and getting stuck pulling guard duty on Thanksgiving while serving in the Marine Corps.
While others took leave and traveled back home to share a holiday feast with their families, I was stuck on a deserted military base eating C-rations out of a can. I didn’t feel very thankful at the time. It was while guarding empty buildings and dipsy-dumpsters from the scourge of communism one Thanksgiving that I learned to be thankful in even the most unwelcome of situations. The man who taught me this invaluable lesson was a fellow Marine I didn’t even know. He was my relief from a 12-hour shift on guard duty. Like me, he had drawn the short straw and was spending Thanksgiving on base instead of back home with his family.
As we went through the official routine of transferring the duty belt, I grumbled about being “stuck” on base while everyone else was enjoying turkey, dressing, and other Thanksgiving goodies. He looked me in the eye and said, “Sergeant, take a deep breath,” which I did. Then he said: “Be thankful you can do that. It means you are alive. A lot of our fellow Marines aren’t. My brother was killed two years ago in Viet Nam.” His comment stopped me in my tracks. I felt embarrassed and even ashamed.
Seeing my reaction, this young Marine squeezed my arm reassuringly and said: “Sergeant, there will be many more Thanksgivings, and you and I will be around to enjoy them. We owe it to those who won’t and to their families to be thankful for that fact.” As he drove away in a jeep, I felt like crawling in a hole. I wish I had gotten his name. This young Marine, who was wise beyond his years, taught me a lesson that has stayed with me ever since. In any situation, we can find things to be thankful for; and should.
If the COVID-19 pandemic kept you away from your family this Thanksgiving, be thankful you have a family you love, one you can be with in subsequent years. If the pandemic has turned your life upside down in other ways, be thankful that God is still in charge and will eventually set things right for you. This is the message in 1 Corinthians 15:57: “But thanks be to God, who gives use the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” If you find yourself feeling discouraged or disappointed over the circumstances in your life at the moment, stop long enough to take out a pen and a piece of paper and make a list of the many blessings you have to be thankful for. Even in the worst of circumstances, it will be a long list.
Dr. Goetsch is the author of Veteran’s Lament: Is This the America We Fought For? and Christian Women on the Job: Excelling at Work without Compromising Your Faith, Fidelis Books, an imprint of Post Hill Press.