Blessings and burdens: Which are we counting?


Welcome to the proverbial calm before the storm. Or perhaps it would be better said the squall before the tsunami.

There are a great many amazing things about the holiday season. But there is also without question a great deal of stress and baggage it brings along with it. It occurred to me that Thanksgiving serves as a sort of “Last Supper” before the full flood of seasonal insanity ensues.

As I’ve perused social media over the last several weeks, I’ve seen the annual efforts by many of my friends and family to post things for which they are thankful. It’s a month of giving thanks. I find myself feeling somewhat like a Thanksgiving Grinch (sorry for the mixed holiday metaphor, but I struggle to find an appropriate parallel). While many are counting their blessings, I’m struggling to stop counting burdens. I’m guessing that I’m not alone.

Even in the dawning light of Thanksgiving, I’m having a hard time seeing through the gathering clouds of the storm to come. My heart and mind are consumed by the stress and anxiety of the seemingly unending list of responsibilities and unresolved issues, both personal and professional, that stand between where we are and where the currents of time are swiftly taking us.

There are a great many things that need to be done and conflicts that need to be resolved before the holiday season starts in earnest and not enough time in which to do it all. At this moment, for the first time in my life, Thanksgiving represents a potential descent into madness rather than a respite from it. Rather than coming into the dawning of a great light, it feels as if we’re continuing a descent into darkness.

It’s incredibly ironic to me that the arrival of a season that is supposed to be defined by thankfulness and that quickly gives way to a season of great joy celebrating the coming of the prince of peace is that it is also a season that so easily devolves into darkness and consternation.

Perhaps it’s not ironic at all, though. The dawning of light always comes in the presence of darkness. The question for each of us is on which will we choose to focus. Will we choose to fixate on the struggles and the stresses or will we look to the light of the many blessings and reasons for joy in our lives?

As I felt the anxiety in my heart growing this morning, an old Christian hymn came to mind. I think it is worth our consideration in this season of thankfulness and joy. Maybe it can help us reorient our mindset to help clear the clouds and let the light shine through.

“When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed, When you are discouraged thinking all is lost; Count your many blessings, name them one by one, And it will surprise you what the Lord has done…

“Count your blessings, name them one by one; Count your blessings see what God has done; Count your blessings, name them one by one; Count your many blessings see what God has done.”

The struggles and storms of life are no respecter of seasons. While we may take vacations, they do not. I’m not sure if our holidays create more anxiety in our hearts or just make us more aware of what was already there. I’m prone to lean toward the latter.

Whatever the case, Thanksgiving provides us with a much-needed reminder that even in the midst of the seemingly endless list of burdens, there is an equally unending list of blessings. The disposition of our hearts depends largely upon which one will dominate our attention and which one we’re counting.

The Rev. Jeremy Myers is the pastor at First Baptist Church in Seymour. Read his blog at Send comments to [email protected].

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