The first few lines of Paul’s letter to the Philippians include this: “I thank my God every time I remember you.” Phil 1:3
Paul loved the people in the church of Philippi. That included Lydia and her household, a prison guard and his family, a former fortune-teller, and others. His time there, detailed in Acts 16, had been exciting. With the help of God, Paul planted a small group of believers there, who became big supporters of Paul’s mission to spread the gospel.
In prison when he wrote these words, Paul’s situation was tenuous. Yet he was thankful. The rest of the letter to the Philippians includes more gratitude for their monetary gifts and numerous references to joy and rejoicing. Thankfulness is a really good habit. Counting your blessings is a way of shifting focus to the things that are good and excellent. I can remember my parents saying after any minor disaster, like a car accident or breaking dish or weather incident or job situation: “It could have been worse.” They always found a perspective that made them thankful.
Paul ties his thankfulness to remembrance. Every time he remembered them, he thanked God. Every time. Every time the Holy Spirit brings someone to mind, what do you do? I know personally what happens when we put off contacting someone when the spirit reminds us. An elderly friend lost her husband last spring. I spoke to her by phone shortly after and promised I would come see her soon. I was in her area all summer. She kept coming to my mind. I wanted to stop in for a visit. I meant to call her. Weeks went by and life was full of many good things – trips, parties, Bible studies. Towards the end of the summer, I heard she was in the hospital, on the prayer list. So I called, only to get her message machine. I sent emails. In one response, she mentioned she had fallen. I didn’t know if she was at home or in the hospital. I meant to find out. I didn’t ask the right people. I just didn’t follow through. And then I heard she died on All Saints Day. Regret made my sorrow deeper.
Every time we remember, let’s thank God. Thankfulness encompasses joy and peace. It completes the circle of blessing. God gives every good and perfect gift, and when we thank him, the gift is acknowledged and more valued. Even when circumstances are heartbreaking, there is something or someone for which thankfulness is appropriate.
I am thankful for young people. For old people. For my adult children and their lives. For my father, who is 91 and for my mother who is in heaven. I am thankful to have known that elderly friend who passed away a few weeks ago. I am thankful for my church families, for World Vision, for Asbury Seminary, for my wonderful husband, wonderful friends, for technology, for electricity, for clean water.
Lord, help me remember people and to thank you for them. Just as you never forget us, let us not forget those you have put in our lives. Help me call and visit the sick, the forgotten, the unloved. As Thanksgiving approaches, help me to remember and thank you, every time.