One of our family Thanksgiving traditions is to compile a “thankful list.” After reminding us that we all have lots to be grateful for, my wife gives each of us a three-foot strip of calculator roll paper and tells us to get busy and fill it up!
This year, I plan to record my gratitude for what we have…and for what we don’t have.
At the top of my list: I am grateful that we have peace and that we don’t have war on our soil. I do have much to be grateful for, and I recognize that millions of others—including many of my friends, and brothers and sisters in Christ—face the profound struggles of daily danger, aggression, and war.
In our world there are at least ten active wars, in Syria, Afganistan, Pakistan, DR Congo, South Sudan, Libya, Ukraine, Iraq, Israel/Palestine, and Nigeria. Additionally there are at least 25 other nations that are considered danger zones for travelers. Families, especially children, in these nations are at great risk as they face wars and threats of war.
The recent attacks in Lebanon, Paris, and Mali compel me to add to my list the many people around the world who bravely provide care and protection for others, often while facing horrible opposition.
I have a dear friend who lives in one of these countries. Civil war has been raging in his nation since 1967. I have listened to his story and spoken with his friends, many of them pastors who have endured robbery, torture, death threats, and great loss, including the death of loved ones in war. And yet they remain resolved to continue preaching and living the Gospel message: Jesus loves you, and He brings hope for a different kind of life, in this present life and in the life to come. They are amazing life- and hope-givers, at great risk, in the middle of life-and-death circumstances.
I want to express my profound thankfulness to all of our partners around the world, many of whom live in the nations listed above. You are courageous life-givers in a life-taking world, and you do not go unnoticed! Your response in life-threatening situations is an inspiration to me and to many others.
I sometimes wonder how I would respond if I didn’t live in a country that had peace, and war was raging all around me? My brothers and sisters are teaching me that by remembering Jesus’ love and sacrifice, we can grow in faith and confidence, knowing that He will guide us and give us the strength and courage required to face humanly impossible situations.
I am thankful for the Gospel, our only hope and the lone path to true freedom from fear. We can have peace in our souls, even while chaos surrounds us. The truth that God is bigger than any war and human injustice helps us to endure. This is what I hear from my friends facing war in these nations, and this is the reality I observe in their lives.
Today, for those of us who experience external peace, we have the opportunity to celebrate these blessed freedoms and to be truly grateful. We must, however, also remember in our prayers our brothers and sisters in war-torn regions. Though they often possess the deep, abiding, internal peace that only Jesus can offer in the face of chaos, their safety is threatened and their lives are at risk.
With the author of Psalm 91, we proclaim that you are “our refuge and our fortress, our God, in whom we trust.” We ask you to command your angels concerning our dear brothers and sisters, to guard them in all your ways. On their hands may your angels bear them up, lest they strike their foot against a stone. May they tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent may they trample underfoot.