When It’s Hard to Give Thanks at Thanksgiving

 

The first rays of morning sunlight stretch through the frosted windowpane, and I open my laptop to more bad news. There are faces of grieving families and quotes about the way strangers rose up to lend helping hands, but I find my heart hardening.  I don’t want to read the stories about the kindness of strangers or the way they prayed for the dying man as his wife held him in her arms.  I’m angered by the brokenness of the world today, and I just want it all to stop.

This is my knee-jerk reaction to the latest news of tragedy in our nation. I know my heart should be soft and broken and thankful for the kindness of strangers, but I’m so overwhelmed by the frustrating fact that bad news has become our reality.

Ten years ago, I remember quoting Scripture and telling a friend that all the wars, bombings, and natural disasters are simply the signs that the end is near. I remember telling her that I was doing alright with it all, because it meant the Lord was coming soon.  And now, a decade and dozens of tragedies later, I so deeply want it all to end.

Today’s post is for anyone who is struggling to give thanks this Thanksgiving. It’s for those who are grieved from afar by the tragedies in our nation, and it’s for the families who are directly walking through their own personal tragedies.  I don’t pretend to know how it feels to be in any shoes but my own; and so, I offer these words for myself, if for no one else.

Become Someone Else’s Reason to Give Thanks

There’s a promise that he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. When it’s hard to find a reason to be thankful, break the chains of discouragement by becoming someone else’s reason to give thanks.  In her book, A Case for Kindness, Lisa Barrickman offers hundreds of suggestions.  Here are a few of my favorites: Visit Colorasmile.org and invite the kids to color a picture for a soldier overseas; put an encouraging note in a sports bag; let someone else pick the movie; show up with coffee; carry an extra umbrella for a stranger on a rainy day; compliment a stranger.

Find One Thing That’s Good

The kids and I found ourselves caught in a torrential downpour a half-mile from the house this summer. Sitting in the double stroller with the puppy, a downpour began, and it literally could not have rained harder.  I took to running as fast as possible while water pounded us in white sheets that tore in from the north.  Caleb screamed in terror, and Bekah yelled something I couldn’t quite understand in the pounding rain.  When we finally found shelter in the garage, I realized Bekah was cheering in sheer joy.  “That was awesome!” she yelled.  “I’ll never forget it in my whole life!”

Some situations are far more dire than getting caught in a summer rain shower, but Bekah’s attitude was an important reminder to me that day: In every hard situation, there’s something that’s good. It’s exactly what the bystanders interviewed on the news are doing when they comment on the kindness of strangers amidst crisis moments.

Find a Place to Plug in

A sense of isolation makes a dark season seem even darker. It’s often most difficult to reach out to others when we’re going through hard times, but this is exactly when we most need the support of caring community.  When it’s hard to give thanks for anything at all, it’s probably time to pick up the phone and text a friend, get in the car and drive to visit a relative, or jump online and look for a group that might offer support within the community.

Bring Your Burdens to the One Who Can Handle Them

Because I know that God is already aware of my burdens, I sometimes neglect praying about my needs, my pain, and my desires. God calls us to ask, seek, and knock.  He wants us to bring our burdens to him and unload.  He can handle the heaviest burden.

Not long ago, we were in a sort of a financial season of fasting in an attempt to stay within our budget. If it wasn’t an absolute necessity, we weren’t buying it.  Sadly, this financial fast fell at around the time when everyone else in the neighborhood was decorating their doorsteps with colorful mums and plump pumpkins.  Deeming these decorations luxuries, I committed to abstain from spending even a few dollars.

It was after Bekah begged me to find some pumpkins for the front stoop that I decided I should simply bring this desire before the Lord in prayer. Praying for pumpkins felt too small when families across the world have gone days without food, but I prayed for free pumpkins anyway.

Not an hour later, my mom called to tell me that they had grown pumpkins in the garden and had pumpkins waiting for us at the house. An hour later.  I’d been wishing for a pumpkin for weeks.  There just aren’t coincidences.

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If you’re reading today with a heavy heart, my prayer is that you’ll lift your face to the One who made you and find hope for the journey. He promises to go with us, even in the darkest valleys – even when we have no sense of his presence.  When I can find little else for which to give thanks, I give thanks for this: for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

Special thanks to the following link-ups this week:

Counting My Blessings

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Faith on Fire

Susan B. Mead

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