Bethesda News

Thanksgiving Amid Pain and Change

First Thanksgiving at Plymouth. Image courtesy of

Our national holiday of gratitude, Thanksgiving, was born and grew out of hard times. The first Thanksgiving took place after nearly half the pilgrims died from a rough winter and year. It became a national holiday in 1863 in the middle of the Civil War and was moved to its current date in the 1930s following the Depression.

Now we’re at Thanksgiving 2020. Thankful for COVID-19? No. Thankful in the midst of this pandemic? Can we and will we say yes? 1 Thessalonians 5:18 challenges us: “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”

What is God doing during this pandemic for which we should be thankful? The implication of Paul’s statement is that obviously there are things for which we can be thankful in any crisis. Even though our feelings may say no, our beliefs and our trust in the God of comfort should say yes.

Dr. Robert A. Emmons, professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, is one of the world’s leading scientific experts on gratitude. “When under crisis conditions we have the most to gain by a grateful perspective on life,” he says. “In the face of demoralization, gratitude has the power to energize. In the face of brokenness, gratitude has the power to heal. In the face of despair, gratitude has the power to bring hope. In other words, gratitude can help us cope with hard times.”

While Dr. Emmons’ writings have much to offer psychologically, a passage from 2 Corinthians 4:8,9 helps bring godly perspective: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

Taking these encouraging insights, I want you to hear a firsthand impression from a guest at our Men’s Shelter who has learned to be grateful in the midst of incredible pain and change. Some pretty amazing things have happened in the lives of our guests through this pandemic as they have been working on life recovery.

Patrick has been at the Men’s Mission since November 2019 and is currently the youngest member of the Helmsman program. He’s learned that though he didn’t want to be here at first, God wanted him here. Now, he feels that time goes quickly. He’s thankful for the Mission, our staff and counselors.

He’s thankful for his family giving him multiple “second chances” and that he has been able to improve those relationships. “With the help of God, you can accomplish whatever you want,” he said when I sat down with him to talk about his experience.

He said that during the shutdown when our staff presence was limited for safety, the guests had to do programming more independently. They gladly stepped up to continue small groups, 12-step meetings, and serving street homeless during that time.

These insights from Patrick are a wonderful reminder of what God can do in a life willing to humble themselves and surrender their wills to one deserving of all of our praise and obedience. Uncertain times, societal upheaval, the threat of poverty, sickness and death–all this naturally lead to fear. In situations like these, one of the best things we can do is remember just how great, how good, how strong and mighty, how faithful our God truly is. Through Jesus Christ, each one of us can know Him as our heavenly Father.

The faithfulness of our donors throughout this pandemic has been wonderfully encouraging. Many stories from our donors have told us, regardless of their financial situation during this unsettling time, they understand and want to help those whose lives are so destructive, chaotic, and without hope, but through their investment in this House of Mercy called Bethesda, lives can and are changed.

This is a crucial time for fundraising – 40% of our annual funding is normally received during last quarter of the year. As you ponder what you are willing to contribute, rest assured that our vision and implementation of ministries always seeks to listen and honor God with integrity and transparency as we offer opportunities for hurting men, women, and children to find real hope. May you find that kind of hope and experience thankfulness as you navigate the challenges in your lives.

With Thanksgiving,

Scott Dunwoody
Executive Director

“All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:15

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