Hope, faith and Thanksgiving
In The Year of Bottomless Bailouts, I am most grateful this Thanksgiving for Americans who refuse to abandon thrift, personal responsibility, and self-reliance. When the moochers and entitlement-mongers drive you mad, remember that our nation still serves as home to millions of citizens who do for themselves. Like our Founding Fathers, they are God-fearing people — the ones elitist pundits deride as “oogedy-boogedy” — who will never put their faith in The Cult of You Owe Me.
The tide of history remains opposed to tyranny. One of the worst of the modern era, Saddam’s Baathist regime, is out of business. In Gaza, in Burma, in Zimbabwe, in Sudan, in China, in Georgia, in North Korea and Iran, while tyranny still exists, it is widely condemned. For all the rhetoric we sometimes hear, people know where the tyrants live. The values and freedoms nurtured in America and exported, gratis, at the expense of our own nation’s blood and treasure, are the values and freedoms most widely admired, and desired where they are not already emulated in the world.
People seeking grievances to grumble about and evidence to justify discouragement will always find it. Gloom and self-pity are always easier than gratitude and hope. We complain of what we don’t have and neglect to be thankful for the blessings all around us.
It is helpful at times to reflect back on all that God has done for us. There is an old hymn that includes the lyric, “Hither by Thy grace I’ve come.” And those words inspre me as I think back to that moment in August 1987 when I sat in my ’84 Chevette in the parking lot of the Calhoun (Ga.) Times, praying that I would get the $275-a-week sports editor’s job for which I was about to interview.
The day before, I’d been driving a forklift in a warehouse on Fulton Industrial Boulevard in Atlanta when the call came informing me of this opportunity. “Great,” I said. “Just one question. . . . Where in the hell is Calhoun, Georgia?”
Well, it was there that I met and married my wife. Sometimes I recall the prayer I said in that parking lot and think, “Wow. I ought to pray more often.” Surely, I can’t complain of all God’s blessings toward me in the intervening years. Being human, however, I still complain when the hardships come. It is difficult to be thankful for the hardships, to recognize that our disappointments and trials are equally part of God’s plan.
The pilgrims whose 1621 feast we commemorate at Thanksgiving recognized their dependence on God. As William Bradford said of the 102 settlers who arrived off the New England coast in 1620: “What could now sustain them but the spirit of God and his grace?” They had a mystic faith in God’s will, as described in the eighth chapter of Romans:
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. . . .
What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?
We cannot deserve God’s grace and mercy. We are “sinners in the hands of an angry God,” as Jonathan Edwards said: “There is nothing that keeps wicked men, at any moment, out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God.” Deserving nothing but destruction, then, it behooves us to reflect in all humility upon whatever design God means to accomplish by our preservation, to be grateful to play some part in His purpose, and to understand that it is through no merit of our own that we are called.
If God wishes to destroy us, nothing can save us. Yet if God wishes to save us, nothing can destroy us. This faith requires that we be thankful even for God’s chastisements. Remember that the Israelites were God’s own chosen people, yet they were enslaved by the Egyptians, conquered by the Assyrians, Babylonians and Romans. This was not because God had any particular favor for Israel’s conquerers; rather, those heathen nations were instruments by which He chastised His people, part of a larger design of which the heathen knew nothing.
In everything, God has some purpose, and in nothing do we have cause to complain. Suppose that you lost everything. Suppose disaster came, and you lost your home, your career, every material possession and hope for advancement. Suppose that this disaster not only involved you, but that it also took the lives of many of your closest friends, and even destroyed your community. What would you say in the midst of such an all-encompassing disaster?
The march of Providence is so slow and our desires so impatient; the work of progress so immense and our means of aiding it so feeble; the life of humanity is so long, that of the individual so brief, that we often see only the ebb of the advancing wave and are thus discouraged. It is history that teaches us to hope.
My six children are all healthy, and my beautiful wife is even now preparing a lavish Thanksgiving feast. Alabama is undefeated. With so much to be thankful for, I cannot complain. And history still teaches us to hope.
(Cross-posted at The Other McCain.)
Robert Stacy McCain