Note: Our office is closed today, but I hope this reflection will help you celebrate Thanksgiving every day.
The last season of Fixer Upper started Tuesday. But Chip and Joanna Gaines’s lifestyle empire will continue long after they leave their incredibly successful television show.
Remarkably, their Magnolia Market at the Silos is even more popular than the Alamo.
When they bought the property that is now the heart of their amazing business, few would have imagined that it would become what it is. But they engaged in “reframing,” a psychological technique by which we choose to view circumstances in a different light. Chip and Joanna do this with each house they transform, turning what it is into what it could be.
Reframing is essential for every dimension of life in this fallen world. Consider the biblical injunction to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). How can we be grateful in all circumstances, both challenging and joyful?
Note that the text does not call us to give thanks for all circumstances. Jesus wept at the grave of Lazarus; he sweat blood in Gethsemane; he cried out in lonely agony on the cross.
Rather, it calls us to give thanks in all circumstances. We can reframe any challenge, no matter how difficult, to find a reason for gratitude.
Consider three examples.
On Monday, the Trump administration designated North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism. The Treasury Department then announced new sanctions against the Communist regime. Experts continue to warn that the rogue nation could soon develop the ability to strike the continental US with a nuclear warhead.
Rancor in American politics is more heated than I can ever remember. One study reports that politically divided families cut their Thanksgiving celebrations short by an average of twenty to thirty minutes last year. This week we saw stories on ways to survive Thanksgiving in such an acrimonious time.
Meanwhile, the political turmoil in Zimbabwe continued as Robert Mugabe resigned under pressure, ending his thirty-seven-year rule. Eric Metaxas noted that this week marks a century since Bolshevik revolutionaries ushered in Communism in Russia. At one point, one-third of our planet lived under this disastrous political worldview.
We can be angry at the political angst in America, or we can be grateful that we live in the world’s oldest continuing democracy.
The empty tomb
Let’s close by considering the most heinous crime in human history. Twenty centuries ago, the sinless, innocent Son of God was illegally arrested, falsely accused, and unfairly condemned to die. He suffered a form of execution so horrific that it is outlawed in nearly every country on earth.
Last Monday when I was in Israel, I stood before Gordon’s Calvary, where many historians believe Jesus was crucified. The location where he died was known as “The Place of a Skull” (John 19:17), a description that aptly fits the rock formation before us.
Jesus was murdered, not atop a hill as the hymn suggests, but on level ground (John 19:25) “near the city” (John 19:20), where he could be mocked by the crowds. His body nailed, his scalp lacerated, his side pierced, he died in the cruelest possible way.
His death was so tragic that the sky was darkened for three hours (Matthew 27:45). At the moment Jesus died, “the earth shook” (Matthew 27:51) as if the very land was grieving his agony and death.
How could this tragedy be reframed into thanksgiving?
After a minute’s walk from Gordon’s Calvary, we came to the Garden Tomb. It meets every physical criterion to be the place where Jesus was buried. It was there that death became life and tragedy became redemption. It was there that history’s worst calamity became our greatest victory.
The next time you feel that you are at Gordon’s Calvary with no reason for hope or gratitude, reframe your circumstances. Walk to the Garden Tomb and remember that “he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus” (2 Corinthians 4:14).
You’ll find a way to “give thanks in all circumstances.” And every day will be Thanksgiving.