The Bible teaches us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 to “be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
I heard this story years ago. I like it because of it’s focus on eternity (life after death) with Jesus, but it also causes me to pause and give thanks for the hope I have today. The story is called “keep your fork.”
A woman came to her pastor and revealed to him that she had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. And while she was still able, she wanted to talk to him about her upcoming funeral.
She began to tell him what she would like included in her funeral service, what songs she would like sung and especially the message she wanted to convey to her family about her salvation and glorious hope of spending eternity with Jesus. Then, she said, “And pastor, I also have one very unusual request. I would like to be buried with a fork in my hand and I need you to make sure it happens.”
The pastor was taken aback by this unusual request. He asked, “Did I hear you right? You want to be buried with a fork in your hand? I don’t understand.”
She continued, “All the years growing up in my home, we would finish dinner and while we passed our dirty dinner dishes to be stacked, my mother would always say to the family, ‘Pass everything down, but keep your forks.’”
“Whenever she said, ‘keep your fork,’ I knew what it meant. It meant that we had experienced the main course, now the best is yet to come. Dessert!” She continued. “I know that this life on earth is about to end for me, but life really isn’t over yet. The best is yet to come! Eternity with Jesus is going to be wonderful!”
The pastor replied, “Yes, that’s true, but I still don’t understand about the fork in your hand.”
She explained, “As I said, I want to be buried with a fork in my hand. And I would like you to stand next to the casket and when people pass by and see the fork in my hand and they ask, ‘Why in the world does she have a fork in her hand?’ you can answer them with what I just told you. Because the best is yet to come.”
I have always loved that story because it illustrates eternity and how to take the long view, the eternal view of things. It gives us hope that there is more to this life in Christ than just today or tomorrow. The rest of eternity is out there waiting for us and God is making us ready.
So, it is possible to be thankful in all circumstances when we learn to take the long view of things and know the hope that we can hold on to right now, not only because God is with us, but He also promised He will never leave us nor forsake us. We can also hold on to the hope we have in Jesus for eternity because God is not finished
with us yet and the best is yet to come.
Paul encourages us to think in this way when we face troubling times. In 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, he writes, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So, we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
Because God is always with us and loves us so much, we have much to be thankful for today and forever! Count your blessings! Keep your fork! The best is yet to come!
• The Rev. Dan Wiese is pastor for the Church of the Nazarene. “Living Growing” is a column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders.