For the fourth consecutive year, my Thanksgiving is surrounded by a time of tragedy or heartache. So I must come forth honestly to ask the question, “How can I be thankful in a time like this?”
Why is it that the day that I am supposed to feel thankful for is right in the middle of a time when I feel most justified to not be thankful. When things feel like they are crashing down my head, am I really supposed to look up with a thankful heart? Can’t I have a day to grieve and complain? Is it required that I half-heartedly rattle off a bunch of things that I am thankful for? Maybe this Thanksgiving I don’t feel like focusing on the things that make me happy; maybe I want to focus on the despair and heartache. Maybe cutting a turkey and feasting on pie feels irreverent in my situation. Maybe giving petty thanks at all feels disrespectful to the aching that is very present in my soul. And maybe, probably, I am far from alone in these feelings.
And then I look at the demeanor that Christ asks of us. The Bible says that we are to be thankful in all circumstances. It says in everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. So even with the painful things that have been taking place, God asked me to be thankful, somehow, in this situation. So Thanksgiving is not just a day, but it is a continual attitude that the Christian is told to strive after.
Here is a basic strategy to maintaining a thankful outlook even when things suck. Remember this concept: there is nothing taken from us that we were not first given. Whatever we have lost that has broken our hearts this year, we would do well to recognize that it was a gracious blessing given to us in the first place. The worst the perceived loss, the greater was the initial sense of blessing. If we consider that the most valuable thing on earth is a human life, then the value of that life is reliant upon the most gracious gift of God. Sure, we think we humans create life, but it is God that gives thoughts to a mind and feelings to a soul. We can complain when we think that God has taken a life from us, but in our complaints we would do well to remember that life has no existence apart from Him. Apart from a God ordained universe, life would have no meaning and value in the first place – and thus we would have no reason to feel sorrowful over the loss of a life. Therefore, the greater the despair, the greater the initial blessing was.
Maybe some are sick or in some way inhibited by their health this Thanksgiving. Again we can consider that our body would have no function apart from its creator. Maybe the body feels pain and suffering all the time. Pain is a sign of life – and is far more dignified than feeling nothing. Pain goes only skin deep, while suffering affects the soul. Suffering is that sign that something is not right. It is okay to recognize that things are not the way that they were planned to be. Each of our sufferings goes to show that this is not our home. Our hearts seem to beat for a more permanent and stable home. God has created this desire within us because He has always intended to be the fulfillment of it. While we have many things on earth to be thankful for, our ultimate hope and appreciation is in the promise of everlasting life from the inheritance that Jesus Christ earned on our behalf.
This is not to say that you must ignore the grief you might feel, but to grieve in the truest way possible. If you are struggling to live a thankful life, look to Him as our enduring and eternal hope and prize. Meanwhile, let us be joyful in identifying the things of this earth which display God’s goodness and faithful hand. God bless you as you rejoice – even through the pain.