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It Could Be Worse

Thanksgiving is a time of joy and gladness in millions of households, but apparently not in comedian Rita Rudner's. She said, "My mother is such a lousy cook that Thanksgiving at her house is a time of sorrow." Rudner's joke is funny, but also reminds us of a serious truth. Thanksgiving must be grounded in more than good food, good times, good health, and a good job, etc. Why? The turkey might be tough and it could get burned. Good health may take a sudden hike, and a good job may head off to China or Mexico or Indonesia or wherever. Happiness based totally on optimal physical/material circumstances can get jerked away at the will of a wisp. A phone call, lab report, layoff notice, or drop in the stock market can set off a storm of emotion and pain that seems like it will last forever. Acts 27 tells about a terrible storm that slammed into the life of the apostle Paul on his journey to Rome on a ship with 275 other people. The words of Acts 27:20 vividly describe how terrible it was: "Now when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest beat on us, all hope that we would be saved was finally given up." Their expectation that things would/could ever be any better was all gone. The pounding storm wouldn't go away, and the sad, bad, circumstances had drained their hope-tanks dry.

What do you do when it seems things just can't get any worse? Worry? Complain? Moan? Groan? Belly-ache? Talk about how unfair life is? Protest you don't deserve this? Throw yourself a pity-party and invite two or three of your most miserable friends? Shake a fist in God's face? Paul's response is atypical and amazing. The text says he stood forth in the midst of them and told them God communicated to him there would be no loss of life. He urged them to take nourishment and then he took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of them all" (vs 35). Note that the storm is still raging at this point. Even so, in the midst of a situation that surely seemed it could not get worse, Paul's faith-filled heart found expression in thanksgiving! Paul believed things could be worse than facing a hurricane-force storm on the open sea. What could be worse? Facing that storm without faith in the promise of God's power and presence and protection! With little left to sustain him but faith, Paul found a way and reasons to be thankful. This great apostle preached again and again what he practiced in his life — there is always something and/or someone to thank God for, even in the worst of life's storms. Years ago the Peanut's cartoon pictured Charlie Brown bringing out Snoopy's dinner on Thanksgiving Day. But it was his usual dog food in his usual bowl. Snoopy took one look at the dog food and said, "This isn't fair. The rest of the world is eating turkey with all the trimmings, and all I get is dog food. Because I'm a dog, all

I get is dog food." He stood there and stared at it for a moment, then said, "I guess it could be worse. I could be a turkey." Even in the midst of life's storms and problems, we can find reasons to thank God.  "In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ