This year has been tough. Humanity has been hit with a major health crisis, political turmoil, and natural disaster. Many have lost loved ones, jobs, and livelihoods. Churches and schools were forced to close due to the pandemic so there was no social outlet. People lost touch of reality, lost touch of friends, and lost part of themselves. Others watched doors close, dreams die, and lost all hope. For many, this Thanksgiving season is going to be difficult to go through with a grateful heart because they are carrying heavy burdens of pain and suffering.
While we do go through painful seasons, these seasons do not define our life. One of my hero women, Christy Wright, says this “You are not the season you are in”. Psalms 30:5b says “weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” If I can offer you some encouragement friends it would be this: painful seasons do not last.
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come and see what the LORD has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” Psalms 46: 1-11
Gratitude is the art of being thankful. Thankful for what we have been given, and thankful for what we have been spared.
- Did you wake up this morning? Some did not.
- Did you eat breakfast? Some could not?
- Did you drive to work? Some had to walk.
- Did you wake up with your spouse? Some lost theirs this year.
- Did you kiss your children? Some can’t have them.
- Are you reading this? Some can’t see.
Did you know the art of gratitude actually has a chemical and physical effect on our bodies? Yes! Practicing gratitude releases dopamine. Dopamine is our “feel-good” chemical messenger. It tells out brain that we are experiencing pleasure. Practicing gratitude is just as pleasurable as eating our favorite foods or taking part in a fun activity. It reduces our stress and anxiety, and tells our brain that we’re happy so we feel happy. Even in the rough seasons, there is still so much to be grateful for. One of my favorite Thanksgiving passages comes from Psalms 100.
“Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his ; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” Psalms 100:1-5
How do we do this then? How do we go in to a season of Thanksgiving with a heavy heart?
1.) It’s ok to acknowledge your pain.
You do not have to guard your heart with God my friend. He made that heart and He knows when it is breaking. Hebrews 4:15 tells us “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” When Jesus came to earth wrapped in human flesh, He did not do so void of all human emotion. He took on that which we experience. Jesus experienced loss and grief, but was able to turn it for the glory of the Father. He’s not scared or disgusted by your pain. Psalms 34:18 says “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” We can be assured that our Father does not run when we tell Him we’re hurting. He is close, begging us to rest on Him and in His grace. He says “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9a)
2.) Make gratitude your first response.
When you wake up in the morning, make a habit of vocalizing gratitude first thing. Start your day with prayer and a gratitude journal, or have an accountability partner you text with your daily gratitude. It’s amazing what starting with Thankfulness will do for our daily mood. We don’t have to pretend there is no pain, but we should learn to give thanks for what we have been given.
3.) Reach out to someone else who may be hurting.
It’s always harder to focus on your suffering when you are helping someone else through theirs. Reach out to someone who lost a spouse and invite them to Thanksgiving dinner. Reach out to a family who lost their income and offer to bring groceries for Thanksgiving. Reach out to someone who has had little human interaction and ask if you could come visit and bring dessert. Check with your local church for some names who need help paying a bill, an encouraging letter, or just some extra prayer. When we get our eyes off of our misery and focus our energy on others, we start to notice our own blessings even more.
4.) Plan Thanksgiving Dinner.
There’s nothing like sitting down and planning a holiday menu to lift my spirits. If that works for you, then grab a notebook and start planning. Whether you want family, friends, or both. Whether you want potluck style or formal sit-down. Whether you want traditional turkey or more modern baby back ribs. It doesn’t matter. Just start planning and make it happy for you and your family.
My prayer is that even in the midst of this rough season you can find encouragement to continue on in thanksgiving and praise to our Creator and Savior. Happy Thanksgiving!