Wednesday, November 25, 2015

When Thanksgiving is Hard

Today I came across a post I wrote last Thanksgiving. It was one I needed then and need again today. The holidays are upon us and I find myself thinking of my cousin's family, my niece's family and my uncle's family. We said "Good-bye" to 3 people far too soon this year and life will never be the same for many. I can't imagine the pain that accompanies losing your child, spouse, sibling or parent, but friend if you're there this Thanksgiving, I'm praying for you.

May these words lift our eyes to Jesus and remind us who is in control. Our circumstances can change, but our God never does...let's thank Him for who He is!

Thanksgiving is a day that always makes me think and it has become my favorite holiday. I appreciate the simplicity (no gift-buying pressure) and treasure the memories. Fourteen years ago, on the eve of the big day, Job surprised me when he asked me to be his wife and four years ago we learned we were expecting our 5th child. This holiday holds memories that our dear and represents a concept that is critical, but today I was reminded that sometimes Thanksgiving, and giving thanks, can be hard.

A childhood friend, who I grew up with, went to school with and later coached with lost her dad...15 short months after losing her mom. My heart hurt when I read the news...Chuck was one of a kind! "Sir Charles" and I always enjoyed a good conversation...he kept people on their toes and loved them from the heart. I can "see" him now as memories race through my mind and again the tears fill my eyes. I think of his 3 daughters and 2 sons and the pain they must feel. I've never been in their shoes and can't begin to understand, but the situation has me thinking.

Thanksgiving, like I said, is my favorite holiday, but sometimes the things we love are hard. Today, a day many were looking forward to and enjoyed, was hard for my friend and her family. And friend, there may have been moments that were hard for you as well. Moments when you found yourself missing loved ones who weren't there. This was my 2nd year without my grandma B and yesterday as I prepped and worked in the kitchen I thought of her. I missed her, and though I'm thankful for the memories, I'm reminded sometimes remembering is hard.

For my friends, this day will forever be marked, Thanksgiving may always be hard. All this had me thinking about the bigger picture...Thanksgiving may be a single day on the calendar, but God longs for it to be a constant state of the heart. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us, "In everything give thanks, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 

We often wonder what God's will for us is and here He clearly tells's not a job or a ministry, a place to live or a trip to take. It's not a complicated task, but it is a difficult one. We are instructed to give thanks in everything. Today when I spoke with ones I love and spent time with some as well, it was a fun thing and honestly, an easy thing to do. But tomorrow, next week or next year when I'm personally living out the bad news it won't be enjoyable, but God will still expect it.

Friend, His will for you and me, is to give Him thanks. How can we do that on days that are not created with that focus? On days when it's hard? I'll admit I've wrestled with these questions today as my thoughts drifted to my friends who were planning a funeral instead of enjoying a feast. I struggle living out the command when my kids and I are having a bad day.

I found myself asking God, "How? How do I do this, give YOU thanks in EVERYTHING?" And then He reminded me of a verse our pastor shared last night at our Thanksgiving service - James 1:2-5. It says, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you." 

I'd been studying the beginning of this passage, but the last verse really hit me. Considering our trials pure joy is another thought that is quite contradictory to our human emotions and something I struggle with. Perhaps you do too. If so, be encouraged by verse 5. Friend, when we don't know how to give thanks in everything or how to consider our trials a joy, we need to ask. God will guide us, direct us and provide for us. That truth alone is something to be thankful for. 

Friend, I pray your Thanksgiving has been blessed, but if it's been hard I'm asking God to draw you near and use HIS WORD to speak to your heart. Go to Him now with the hard stuff, the trials, the painful memories and ask Him for wisdom, He will provide. And then on this night of Thanksgiving, do the thing we are created to do - give Him thanks. 

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