This morning I was pondering what I should write about Thanksgiving. Of course, I consider myself extremely blessed. Compared to most of the world, I am rich. Not only that, but I have a safe place to live and can travel freely. My family members are healthy and thriving. I recently retained my job while some friends lost theirs. I had a thought then: God’s grace allowed me to remain employed. But then I had another thought: Who’s to say it was not God’s grace that my friends lost their jobs?
That sounds very callous. But we’re quick to assign God’s grace to the good things in life while blaming that other guy for the bad things. Do we really grasp the statement found in James 2:5? “Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?”
Rich in faith. Is that not the greater blessing in God’s economy?
Some of our fellow Christians have it really hard this Thanksgiving. Not just those suffering in a poor economy in our country, but those suffering for their faith in other countries. According to Worldmag.com, Iraqi Christians are being stalked:
Thousands of Iraqi Christians have found threats like this under their front doors or stoops, in stairwells or shoved through their courtyard gates: “Be informed that we will cut your heads and leave your dead bodies with no organs and no heads in your stores and houses. We know your houses and we know your family. We will kill you one after the other. Depart the Muslim areas.”
As a result many are fleeing into the neighboring countries of Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt. Often they have spent all they have to get out. And in these countries they cannot get jobs.
The problem is most evident in Syria, where approximately 350,000 Iraqi Christians out of over 1.2 million total Iraqi refugees currently live. The Syrian border is only 80 miles from Mosul, Iraq’s third-largest city with at one time a sizeable Christian population. Christians in recent decades made up about 4 percent of Iraq’s general population, but according to church leaders in Syria they make up over 30 percent of its Iraqi refugee population.
This Thanksgiving, those Christians — and others around the world — are poor and not blessed by our flimsy standards. The things many American Christians will be thanking God for will never be realities for these refugees. And yet, I know they will be thanking God.
Last year, I saw a video about Iraqi believers receiving the Bible in their own language for the first time. One woman equated receiving the Bibles to an Iraqi saying that went something like this: “I thought that when I saw my beloved, I would experience the greatest happiness possible. But now that he is here with me, that happiness is exceeded.”
It’s a beautiful picture of the rich in faith. For they actually receive the greater blessing. Let’s remember that this year. Let’s be thankful for the things we have and the things we don’t have. Perhaps in the latter God’s grace abounds even more.