The Thanksgiving Special
Job 1:1-22 GW A man named Job lived in Uz. He was a man of integrity: He was decent, he feared God, and he stayed away from evil. (2) He had seven sons and three daughters. (3) He owned 7,000 sheep and goats, 3,000 camels, 1,000 oxen, 500 donkeys, and a large number of servants. He was the most influential person in the Middle East. (4) His sons used to go to each other's homes, where they would have parties. (Each brother took his turn having a party.) They would send someone to invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. (5) When they finished having their parties, Job would send for them in order to cleanse them from sin. He would get up early in the morning and sacrifice burnt offerings for each of them. Job thought, "My children may have sinned and cursed God in their hearts." Job offered sacrifices for them all the time. (6) One day when the sons of God came to stand in front of the LORD, Satan the Accuser came along with them. (7) The LORD asked Satan, "Where have you come from?" Satan answered the LORD, "From wandering all over the earth." (8) The LORD asked Satan, "Have you thought about my servant Job? No one in the world is like him! He is a man of integrity: He is decent, he fears God, and he stays away from evil." (9) Satan answered the LORD, "Haven't you given Job a reason to fear God? (10) Haven't you put a protective fence around him, his home, and everything he has? You have blessed everything he does. His cattle have spread out over the land. (11) But now stretch out your hand, and strike everything he has. I bet he'll curse you to your face." (12) The LORD told Satan, "Everything he has is in your power, but you must not lay a hand on him!" Then Satan left the LORD'S presence. (13) One day when Job's sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's home, (14) a messenger came to Job. He said, "While the oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, (15) men from Sheba attacked. They took the livestock and massacred the servants. I'm the only one who has escaped to tell you."
(16) While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, "A fire from God fell from heaven and completely burned your flocks and servants. I'm the only one who has escaped to tell you." (17) While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, "The Chaldeans formed three companies and made a raid on the camels. They took the camels and massacred the servants. I'm the only one who has escaped to tell you." (18) While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, "Your sons and your daughters were eating and drinking wine at their oldest brother's home (19) when suddenly a great storm swept across the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It fell on the young people, and they died. I'm the only one who has escaped to tell you." (20) Job stood up, tore his robe in grief, and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground and worshiped. (21) He said, "Naked I came from my mother, and naked I will return. The LORD has given, and the LORD has taken away! May the name of the LORD be praised." (22) Through all this Job did not sin or blame God for doing anything wrong.
Imagine if something like this happened to you this past year. Imagine Job living in our times. He and his wife gathering like so many of us will gather today....around a table and giving thanks to the Lord for the past year. Imagine that all of these tragic events in his life had happened on one day in 2004. Now he and his wife are alone and preparing for thanksgiving.
No big turkey dinner this year. No big feast possible. And things aren’t looking real good for next year either, after all, the men from Sheba had taken all of Job’s farm equipment (the donkeys and the oxen) Then there was the terrific lightning storm that fried all his flocks, there would be no meat on the table this year.
Then his personal wheels and his car dealership were taken away from him as the Chaldeans came and took away all his camels, and then the most horrific thing of all......all ten of his children killed in a terrible tornado. This all happened on ONE day!
Think of the difficult day today for the Ross family who lost their daughter last week to murder, and think of the family of the accused! Think of the families of those 6 deer hunters killed,,, think of the other families who have lost loved ones in the deer hunt so far this year, think of those families who lost loved ones in Iraq...and the list could go on and on.
Life is hard.....God is good. Sometimes, in the midst of our own pain and tragedy that statement just doesn’t make sense, but nonetheless it’s true. God is good!
How did Job handle this tragic day? He immediately expressed his grief, tearing his robe, and shaving his head. So beloved, if tragedy and pain has struck you this year, remember, it’s okay to grieve. And after expressing that grief for an unspecified amount of time. We read that Job fell to the ground and worshiped the Lord. In other words there is a time when we must refocus and move on.
A time to look again at our Gentle Healer, a time to regain the proper perspective. “Naked I came from my mother, and naked I will return. The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away! May the name of the Lord be praised. Later, Job would add, “we accept the good God goives us. Shouldn’t we also accept the bad?
Job, though reeling from these horrific losses, was still able to bow to the will of the Lord in childlike trust and in firm confidence. He trusted the Lord so deeply, that he knew that Father somehow knew best even in these awful circumstances.
We all need to learn to follow Job’s example. We need to think of God as praiseworthy in all our circumstances I know this isn’t necessarily an easy thing to do. What constitutes pain and loss for each of us is different. While Job’s pain and suffering was extreme, and yours may not be AS extreme, it doesn’t lessen your own personal pain, sorrow, and loss.
At the moment of your loss....the feeling is just as intense and just as painful, no matter what it is. We would do well to remember that as we seek to minister to others in their pain.
Nonetheless, after grieving our loss,, and experiencing the pain, there is a time to move on, a time to like Job, fall to the ground and worship our All-knowing God.
I want to share a story with you today that came across my desk some three years ago. It’s called the Thanksgiving Special:
Nancy walked into the florist shop feeling as cold as the November breeze. Her life had been going along just fine but then in the 4th month of her pregnancy, a minor automobile accident took the life of her unborn child. The child would’ve arrived sometime during this Thanksgiving week. But now, she felt so empty.
If that weren’t enough her husband was facing possible job transfer to another state. Then her sister, who’s holiday visits were always a highlight called to say that she wouldn’t be able to make it this year. Nancy was just not in the holiday spirit this year.
To make it worse, a close friend of hers infuriated her just a couple of days ago by suggesting that her grief was a God-given path to maturity that would allow her to empathize with others who suffer. Who did this high and mighty friend think she was????? Had she lost a child?? No! She had no idea what Nancy was feeling. Thanksgiving? Thankful for what? For a careless truck driver whose truck was hardly scratched when he rear-ended her? For an airbag that saved her life but took that of her child?
Just then the clerk interrupted her thoughts with a “Good morning, can I help you?
Uh, .....I need an arrangement.
Do you want beautiful but ordinary? a harvest theme? or are you looking for something that conveys gratitude? If so may I suggest the Thanksgiving Special?
Nancy couldn’t believe the next words that came out of her mouth. She found herself sharing her story of grief with this perfect stranger, and then apologizing for dumping all her troubles on the clerk, but the clerk said, “Oh, I have the perfect arrangement for you!” But before she could explain another customer came into the shop.
Hi Barbara! I’ll be out with your order shortly. She whisked into the back room and soon appeared with an arrangement of greenery, bows, and long-stemmed thorny roses............only, the ends of the rose stems were neatly snipped off.....there were no flowers.
Nancy couldn’t believe it, but even more she couldn’t believe Barbara’a reaction.
“Oh these are just beautiful!” You’d think after three years of getting the special I wouldn’t be as moved , but its happening again. My family will love this arrangement.” And she walked out the door very pleased.
Nancy couldn’t remain silent.....’Uh.....that lady just paid you money and left with no flowers!
Right, the clerk said, I cut off the flowers.”
Yep, that’s the Thanksgiving Special.
But why do people pay for that?
DO you really want to know?
Yes I do.
Barbara came to my shop 3 years ago feeling pretty much the way you are feeling today. She thought she had very little to be thankful for. She had lost her father to cancer, the family business was failing, her son was into drugs, and she was facing major surgery.
That same year, I had lost my husband. I took over full responsibility for running the business, and for the first time in my life I was going to be marking the holidays alone. No family nearby and too great a debt to allow for any travel. I was very depressed.
What did you do?
I learned to be thankful for the thorns.
For the thorns?
Yes, the rough things in life. Oh I was quick to thank God for the good things in my life, but very slow to say thanks for the tough things. It took time for me to learn that the dark times are important too.
I always enjoyed the “roses” of life but it took thorns to show me the beauty of God’s comfort. . The Bible says that God comforts us when we’re afflicted and from His consolation, we learn to comfort others.
Nancy gasped audibly, “Why that’s what my friend was trying to tell me, but she just made me mad! I guess the truth is I really don’t want comfort. I’ve lost a baby and I’m angry with God!
Just then another customer came in.
Hey Phil, the clerk said are you here for the yearly special?
You bet I am. The clerk handed the thorny arrangement to him and he joyfully exclaimed, “Oh my wife will love these!”
Nancy asked, “These are for your wife?”
Oh, yea. 4 years ago my wife and I nearly divorced. After 40 years, we were in a real mess, but we slogged through, problem by rotten problem. Today our marriage is stronger than ever. Last year when I stopped in here I was a little down in the dumps and that’s when I found out about the Thanksgiving special. My wife and I decided to label each thorny stem for the different thorny situations we have encountered. It’s becoming a tradition at our house. The man left the floral shop with a little more bounce in his step.
Nancy, looked at the clerk and said, “I don’t know if I can be thankful for the thorns in my life.
The clerk replied, “Well, my experience has been that thorns make roses more precious. We treasure God’s providential care more during trouble than at any other time. Don’t forget.....Jesus wore a crown of thorns so that we might know His love.......I’ve learned to never resent thorns.”
Tears rolled down Nancy’s cheeks. For the first time since the accident she loosened her grip on her resentment. Between sobs she managed to say, “I’ll take 12 long-stemmed thorns please.”
I hoped you would, every time you see them appreciate the good and the bad times, for all are in God’s hands.
How much do I owe you.
Nothing, the first year is always free and I always attach this card. It is a saying from George Matheson, Read it!
“My God, I have never thanked You for my thorns. I have thanked You a thousand times for my roses, but never once for my thorns. Teach me the glory of the cross I bear. Teach me to value my thorns. Show me that I have climbed to You by the path of pain. Show me that my tears have made my rainbow.
Happy Thanksgiving Nancy!
Nancy smiled and opened the door Happy Thanksgiving she said, and took her first step toward hope and healing.
Now you know why we have the arrangement on the altar today. In this past year I have had the great pleasure of getting to know most of you a little better. I have had glimpses of your joys (your roses) and I have had glimpses of your sorrows. (your thorns) Some of you I don’t necessarily know that well, but I know enough about this life, to know that you have all had some portion of thorns and roses this past year.
May these stems on the altar be a reminder to you that God knows thorns! His Son was crowned with them on Calvary. He sees your pain, He feels your pain, He has allowed it for a purpose, and He will help you through it.
I encourage you now to take a moment for silent prayer and reflect on your trials and tribulations of this past year. Seek to give them to the Lord, trusting that He is still on the throne and He still knows best. The silence may seem a bit awkward at first but please be patient. When we are finished we will spend some time giving thanks to our God for His blessings.