DEAR DR. GRAHAM: I’m dreading Thanksgiving this year. It’s been a hard year for me, and when all our family gets together I’ll just feel like a hypocrite pretending I’m thankful for anything. I’m even wondering if I ought to go. What would you say to someone like me? — Z.B.
DEAR Z.B.: Today families all over America will gather to celebrate Thanksgiving. And for many it will be exactly that — a time to give thanks to God for all His blessings to us. The Bible reminds us that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father” (James 1:17).
But some, I’m sure, probably will feel like you do, because life has been difficult for them and they find it hard to get into the Thanksgiving spirit. Does this mean you ought to stay home and forget about Thanksgiving? I sincerely hope not, both for your sake and the sake of your family. For one thing, when life is hard it’s easy to focus only on the bad things and forget all about the good things God has given us. But God has blessed every one of us in ways we often overlook, and we need to be reminded of them. Take a few minutes to list some of the good things in your life — and then thank God for them.
In addition, ask God to help you not only enjoy seeing members of your family (including some you may not see very often), but to help you be a blessing to them. Others may be going through difficult times also — or even worse. Learn to be a good listener and encourager. The Bible says, “As God’s chosen people... clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.... And over all these virtues put on love” (Colossians 3:12,14).
DEAR DR. GRAHAM: I know Jesus said we’re supposed to forgive people who’ve hurt us, but why bother? As far as I can tell, it doesn’t really change them, nor does it make the hurts go away. — P.L.
DEAR P.L.: Admittedly, forgiving someone who’s hurt us doesn’t always change them. Instead, they may laugh at us, or cynically accuse us of being insincere and only trying to manipulate them. They also may keep blaming us for what happened, just as they’ve always done. But occasionally it will change them — sometimes in surprising ways.
But let me tell you what will happen if you truly forgive someone who has hurt you. No, it may not change them, but it will change you. You see, an unforgiving spirit produces all kinds of negative emotions in us — anger, bitterness, depression, jealousy, hate, and so forth. Any of those easily becomes a spiritual and emotional poison, eating away at our souls and turning us into unloving (and unlovable) people. This is why the Bible commands us to “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger” (Ephesians 4:31). How can you forgive someone who has hurt you? You may think it’s impossible — but with God’s help you can. The key is first to accept God’s forgiveness, by receiving the free gift of salvation He offers you in Jesus Christ. We don’t deserve God’s forgiveness, but on the cross all of our sins were placed in Christ, and He took the judgment we deserve. Have you turned to Him for the forgiveness you need?
Then forgive others the same way Christ has forgiven you — freely and fully. Not only will God release you from an unforgiving spirit, but He even may use you to change the life of the person you’ve forgiven.
DEAR DR. GRAHAM: I just turned 80, and I’ve gotten along just fine all these years without God. You’ll probably tell me I ought to be worrying about death and hell and all of that, but I don’t believe in life after death. Why should I? People who try to convert me make me tired. — D.J.
DEAR D.J.: Occasionally, I’ll meet someone or get a letter from someone like you, and it always makes me sad because I know they’re shutting their eyes to reality. The Bible warns that someday we will all die, and then “we will all stand before God’s judgment seat” (Romans 14:10).
Right now you scoff at this, but have you ever asked yourself why? The reason, I suspect, is simply because you have wanted to live life on your own terms. You know that if you were to take God seriously, you couldn’t remain in control of your life any longer — and you don’t want that to happen. Instead, you want to live by your own rules (or lack of rules), and so far you’ve been able to do it.
But let me ask you a question: Are you sure you’re right? I doubt it; otherwise you wouldn’t have written me. Please don’t misunderstand; I don’t say this to win an argument or put you down. I say it because I yearn for you to discover the greatest joy any person can ever experience — the joy of knowing God, and knowing you will go to be with Him forever in heaven.
Send your queries to “My Answer,” c/o Billy Graham, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, 1 Billy Graham Parkway, Charlotte, N.C., 28201; call 1-877- 2-GRAHAM, or go to www.billygraham.org.