Do you like cartoons? Right now I have a few taped to the bottom of my computer monitor. One cartoon has two windows with signs over each window. Over the first it says “complaints.” The line at the complaint window stretches out of sight. People look like they’ve been locked in a pickle jar for a week. Above the other window it says, “Gratitude.” As you might suspect, there is no one in line at all.
Beside this cartoon, I taped a piece of paper with four words in a large font: “In everything give thanks.” In my haste, I misspelled thanks, so it says, “In everything give tanks.” But you get the idea. Now a sign that reminds us to be thankful is a dangerous thing to have hanging near you, because if you hang it up you really should obey it. But you see, the world is busted. Horrible things happen to good people. And still those words hang there. Last week one of the brightest lights in our community was taken from us in a bike accident. The next day our friends Chuck and Carol lost their son Alex. He was on a mission trip overseas and he collapsed. His sister Alli was the girl our son wanted to marry when he was four. “When I gwow up,” he’d say, “I’m gonna mawwy Awwi.” Alli held Alex’s hand as he passed away. He was 22. Next we received news that our friend Judy has stage four breast cancer. The same Judy who lost her only child in a car crash. “In everything give thanks?” How do you give thanks when there’s a gaping wound in your soul?
In the 153rd episode of Seinfeld, an ancient word was made popular. It’s “Yadah.” On the show it’s used as a conversation gloss over, like “blah blah blah.” Yadah yadah yadah. But Yadah is actually a Hebrew word, a Bible word. It means, among other things, to wring our hands in mourning, to worship with our hands outstretched; and get this, it’s most commonly used to mean holding out our hands in praise to God, in giving thanks.
When my wife was on death’s doorstep I clenched my fist so many times and shook it at the sky. In time I found peace in doing the opposite, in stretching out those hands, in giving thanks. The psalmist wrote, “It is a good thing to give thanks to the Lord.” To hold out our hand and take the hand of the only one who can give strength to turn whatever it is we’re going through into thanksgiving. In a world catastrophes, we will remember Yadah. We will defiantly confess that God is good, that His mercies endure forever. We will stand alone at the gratitude window and give thanks.
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