It’s Thanksgiving week! Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. The whole day is spent with three of the things that I love the most: family, food, and football. The foods are all brown, yellow, or white and delicious. It is also a time for us to slow down and reflect on the year that was. Ideally, we would stop and think about all of the blessings that God has bestowed upon us. Think about all the TV and movie scenes (maybe you do this as well) where everyone at the table goes around and says for what they are thankful.
This year feels different though. If we are being truthful, most of us aren’t feeling the same sense of gratitude as normal. Many people had to make the painful decision to not come together as a family. Folks are spending the holiday alone for the first time in their lives. Traditions are forced to be changed or even take hiatus for a year. Nothing about this Thanksgiving is going to feel normal and as it should be.
I am about to do something that you may need and not have been offered yet. I am giving you permission to feel frustrated and disappointed. You will find plenty of places that will tell you that you need to perk up and still focus on those things for which you can be thankful. I do agree with that sentiment. However, we shouldn’t minimize the hurt that we are feeling. There is pain in every loss, even the loss of normalcy. To mask our pain, put on a happy face, and pretend that everything is ok is not good for us. It is never advantageous for us to not be our true, authentic self.
Gerald May, a psychiatrist, wrote, “I know that God’s goodness goes deeper than all pleasure and pain- it embraces them both.” God never asks for us to pretend that life is perfect. He is all knowing, so our happy act doesn’t fool him. He has never asked us to hide who we are and what we are feeling.
At some point, we have all bought into the lie that following God would result in nothing but happiness and good times. How’d that work out for Jesus? We were never promised an easy life. In fact, all throughout scripture, we are promised trials and suffering. That’s what we’re enduring now.
There is hope and thanksgiving to be had in these times though. Romans 8:35 asks if “trouble or hardship” can separate us from Christ’s love. The answer is a resounding no! God’s goodness and love for us encapsulates both the good times and bad. He will use both to grow and strengthen us.
He will also meet us in the moment. God wants us to come to him with our true emotions. We, all to often, fall into cliché and platitudes when we pray. We say to God what we think that he wants to hear. Our hearts are hurting, yet we tell him everything is great. Friends, the one who knit you together in your mother’s womb sees your heart and knows when it’s been broken. As the Wizard of Oz said, “Hearts will never be practical until they are made unbreakable.” Life is full of heartbreaks, and some of us may be experiencing that with this holiday.
Psalm 147:3 reads, “God heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” The God who created our heart wants to heal it. Will you let him? If you are struggling with loss this Thanksgiving, then tell him about it. He cares. Your problems are not small or petty to him. He wants to wrap his arms around his child. What you are feeling is real, but so is God’s love for you. Don’t run from him if you are hurting. Don’t hide the pain that you’re feeling. Don’t pretend everything is ok when it’s not. Instead, be honest with God; he knows the truth anyways. Let him meet you in the moment and begin to heal those wounds. He is waiting, on his throne, for his beloved sons and daughters to come and crawl into his lap and experience his never-ending comfort and love. For that, we can always be thankful.