A reminder that tomorrow we will commit to praying and fasting for God to bring marriage to those of us who desire it, to strengthen both men and women in their personal and relational lives, and to bring change within our hearts, minds, and spirits.
Another Thanksgiving weekend has come and gone. For me this holiday includes a good dose of food and family, as well as a backgammon tournament so intense it comes with a trophy for each year’s winner. (Granted the trophy is a dancing, stuffed turkey, but that’s beside the point). While my family has it’s own share of dysfunction and challenge, overall it was a rich, full weekend that made it easy to be thankful and recognize God’s blessing. I drove home after the brief time away with warm fuzzy feelings inside.
But when I sat down to write today (knowing I wanted to focus on the holiday), the first thing that came to mind wasn’t thankfulness, but what happens when life hurts, relationships end, loved ones are sick, when depression and anxiety creep in and suck any goodness away. This morning I got a call from a friend whose beloved 12-year old Labrador retriever is at the end of her battle with cancer and will have to be put down this week. Another friend is entering the holiday season after her mother’s unexpected death last spring, and yet another is facing divorce after only three years of marriage and instances of verbal and emotional abuse. Hearing these stories did not exactly bring feelings of thankfulness. Mostly I wanted to shake my fist at the world and demand that God put things right.
It is so easy to offer our praise and thanks to God when things are good in our lives, basically when we feel thankful. But what I constantly have to remind myself of is that thankfulness isn’t simply a feeling that comes from good things happening. It’s an orienting of the heart that, as we practice it, re-focuses our attention away from painful circumstances and back on Jesus, strengthening our awareness of His consistent presence which is necessary if we’re to endure the many things life throws at us on a regular basis. It is indeed a practice, and one that might not initially match where our hearts are. It can seem inauthentic, as though we’re denying our true feelings or suffering.
As is usually case, the way in which God calls us to follow Him is radically different than what feels natural in this world. I can honestly say I never want to give thanks for the pain in my life. And yet on the occasions I try, I notice that something very subtle shifts inside of me. It’s like a small chasm of space opens up and gives God more room to take up residence with the pain and do the work in my life He’s after. In these instances thankfulness takes on a very different definition, becoming an act of surrender, trust, and worship rather than simply a response to circumstances.
My hope for you this week and into the Christmas season is that thankfulness might take on new meaning. That it will remain an offering of praise for God’s goodness, but also become an offering of trust and submission in times of trial. And that in doing so, you will be transformed by the light of His peace and presence.
‘Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” Psalm 118:1
“Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord.” Psalm 89:15