Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior (Habakkuk 3:17, 18).
I come from a long line of situational thankers. Many of us do. I thank God for the food in front of me and for the accident that I avoided. On Thanksgiving I thank Him for my family and friends, the warm home, our health. However, when I don’t experience those blessings, it’s hard to thank God. An attitude of situational thankfulness can mislead to situational depression. It has for me.
I’m convinced there must be a better way. God calls us to rejoice when the crops fail, the livestock run away, when the job hands out pink slips instead of turkey bonuses.
Simon is my friend in the most liberal of terms. He is a beggar on the street; sometimes I help him out. A victim of leprosy, he has no fingers or presumably toes, since he limp-walks. He lost his ability to take care of himself.
When I see him, he lights up. He asks about my daughter, how she’s doing in school. He asks if we’ve been on a trip, since he hasn’t seen me in a while. He tells me that my car is getting old, and I should think about getting a new one. I ask about his church.
Simon treats me like a friend. This sentence makes me miss him, and I will keep my eye out for him in town.
I never expected to say, “I want what this leper has,” and yet, it’s true. I admire Simon’s grace and thankfulness as he deals with a harsh reality. He has learned to be content in all things, not just happy situations, as Paul said: “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4, 11). This thankful depth is what the pilgrims relied on.
Simon’s secret is living in the moment, enjoying the people who are with him, noticing and enjoying the gifts he has (like friendship with an awkward white girl). Trusting that God will give him strength for the many unknowns.
I need a thankfulness like Simon’s. We all do. When situations are good, we should praise God. When situations are hard, we should not lose joy but change focus to see other good moments even in the unknowns.
This lesson does not come naturally to us. I wish it did, but then it would not be so precious. We learn by sitting at the feet of our Teacher-Comforter-King. In Christ’s presence we can learn the secret to being content in all situations.
This year, along with family, friends, and good health, I am thankful for Simon, a beacon of light calling me away from just situational thanksgiving to a deeper, more constant lifestyle of praise.