I don’t fault her- my new friend Holly- for feeling the way she does. Holly is the living, breathing embodiment of my worst fear. She is a single mom whose only child took his own life earlier this year. Because of the pain, because of the anguish, because she has lost her primary reason for living, she would rather die and go to Heaven to be with her son than to continue on with this life. “But, God,” she said with total conviction, “has other ideas.”
So, even though it’s incredibly painful for Holly, she will experience her first Thanksgiving without her son. She will rise to the occasion with thankfulness. She will find the joy in the trial. She will discover the beauty in the ashes. She will be thankful.
Thankfulness comes easy to us during times of celebration and plenty. When we are obviously blessed, our gratitude practically bursts out of our chests with words and actions replete with life and love.
Thankfulness is more intentional during times of heartache and want. When we are hurting and broken, gratitude is not the default response. Thankfulness becomes a choice. It also becomes one of the most important requirements of being able to move forward. Thankfulness is the lifeblood of hope.
It is probably because thankfulness is so critical to our spiritual and emotional well-being, that it is emphasized so much in the Bible.
1 Thessalonians 5:18- “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Colossians 3:17- “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Ephesians 5:20- “Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
It is surely no accident that nearly every scripture referencing thankfulness in the Bible mentions Christ in the next breath.
Our Jesus is no stranger to pain and suffering; nor to grief and loss. He ensured that all of these would be temporary for His followers by sacrificing His life in atonement for us. Jesus made it possible for us to choose thankfulness, because He chose us.
Being chosen is one of the very things helping Holly to choose thankfulness during this difficult first holiday season without her son. “I have hope that I will see my son’s face very soon,” she said, “and knowledge that God personally selected me to be his mama.”
I am completely lacking the Godly wisdom to fully explain the loss of an only child or so many other of the tragic and heart-wrenching things people are experiencing and grieving as they’re bombarded by this season’s message to, “Be Thankful.”
Yesterday, my beautiful friend Julie- whose husband was paralyzed in a cycling accident exactly two years ago- shared this exquisite verse, which is bringing her peace during her own season of trial. And, so, I am sharing it with you:
“To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”
Thankfulness, much like faith or the belief that God can use all things for good, may not come automatically in every moment. But, we can choose to put on the garment of praise and believe that we are loved because God chose us first. In so doing, we become examples of eternal hope. In so doing, we open our hearts to the kind of comfort and thanksgiving that only God can provide.
I pray that, whatever you are going through, you are able to open your heart to receive the full measure of God’s love for you this season. It is often through giving- in pouring out our hearts to others- that we make room for what God wants us to receive.
I thank God for you, my brothers and sisters, and I am thankful that we can take this journey together.