This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

Powell: Too stressed to be blessed?

In a few days we’ll observe Thanksgiving. We will pause to thank our Creator for the blessings we have received.

John Powell

But some of us may ask: How can we give thanks in the midst of animosity?

In the United States, our president has ramped up the rhetoric of hatred. We have witnessed senseless acts of domestic terrorism: the massacre of 11 Jewish worshipers, a mail bomber’s attempt to attack politicians and others whose views he doesn’t like, the killing of black folks because of their race.

Inhumane actions engulf us. Answers seem beyond our reach. We can’t see an end to the culture war.

Many people feel too stressed to be blessed. They don’t look forward to conversations around the Thanksgiving meal because they feel cut off from family members who harbor ideas that are contrary to building reconciled communities.

Can we be thankful in the midst of hatred, violence and injustice?

Yes, we can. Stress can’t stop the blessings.

Feeling blessed begins by recognizing that we are broken people in a broken world. Being thankful begins by not letting ourselves fall prey to the conditions around us.

Let us not forget that our Creator has blessed us with people who can help us find our way through the complexities of the struggle. That’s what Psalm 23:5 means when it says a table is prepared for us in the presence of our enemies. Think of it as a Thanksgiving table — a gathering place for the people who stand between us and our enemies. These enemies are hate and fear.

Let us not allow uncertainty to dampen our resolve to be thankful. Instead, let it motivate us to walk humbly with others as we walk humbly before God.

When I hear the president’s slogan, “Make America Great Again,” I pray that God will make us loving and respectful again. I pray that we will be servants to each other again.

If we become great at living in these positive ways, reconciliation and restoration will happen. The yoke of oppression will disappear.

Let us give thanks for the table God has prepared for us. Let us give thanks for the future God desires for us.

In the midst of physical and psychological violence, I see hope. I believe we are better than we appear to be at this moment.

As people experience the rising hate, resistance rises, too. We may not notice this if we let the divisive voices fill our ears. But it is happening.

Though things look bleak now, many of us believe “the old has gone, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17). Those who resist this new reality fight to maintain the old way of life. But those who desire a reconciled community claim the promise of Scripture: The new has come!

Let us be thankful because:

— Our Creator blesses us in the midst of tumultuous times.

— We have companions to fortify our resolve to be messengers of hope.

— Though we harbor doubts, we have faith in the goodness of humanity.

As you gather around the Thanksgiving table, hold hands and give thanks. Show compassion, because if one suffers injustice, all suffer. Celebrate God’s preparation of a table in the presence of the enemy.

God has set a table of blessings for you. Receive them!

John Powell, of Ypsilanti, Mich., has worked as a pastor, preacher and teacher in Mennonite churches and institutions.

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