Giving Thanks, in Spite of it All

By Dan Ruth

Poverty. Protests. Refugees. Earthquakes, typhoons and hurricanes. Terror. ISIS.

Sometimes it can feel like too much.

Last Wednesday evening I gave a talk to a group of adults at my church. I talked about how Lutheran World Relief is providing support for refugees from Syria and South Sudan. And I talked about our work to get people back on their feet after the earthquake in Nepal and Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

A woman in the front row chimed in and asked, "How many people [staff] does LWR have in these places?"

"We have about 160 staff worldwide," I responded. "Roughly half in the U.S., and half in countries around the world."

"How do you have any hope of making a difference with such limited resources?"

While we have amazing, thoughtful, expert staff and partners who work hard to evaluate our programs so we can prove the impact we're making, sometimes it is easy to look the sheer scale of the needs around the world and, indeed, feel hopeless.

But there's a wonderful paradox in our faith. We see a broken world. We know that sin, sickness and death will always exist. Yet we believe in a God who comes into this broken world, who lives with us, walks with us. And we have faith that this God will conquer sin and death. So in the midst of brokenness, we believe in -- and respond with -- hope.

So this Thanksgiving, in spite of the horrible news, I am following the wise advice of the psalmist and giving thanks.

O give thanks to the Lord, for he
is good,
for his steadfast love endures
-Psalm 136:1

I give thanks for my loving spouse. I give thanks for our son, who celebrates his first birthday today, and the joy I feel as I watch his toddling legs carry him further and further across the carpet each day. I give thanks for coworkers who bring joy and laughter to my daily work. I give thanks for turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and cranberries. I give thanks for pie, and all the friends who share in it.

I give thanks for farmers like Atandi, who grow the beans that fill my morning coffee cup.

This life is Bountiful. And as the singer-songwriter Peter Mayer so joyously puts it:

You don't just say grace
Before you dig in
You stand and dance and sway
Around the kitchen
And feast your eyes, astounded by
What you've been given
Before you even
Sit down
In Bountiful

Happy Thanksgiving!

Dan Ruth is Lutheran World Relief's Senior Manager, Interactive Marketing, and an ordained pastor in the ELCA.