It’s that time of year, when we rush to the store to purchase our turkey, potatoes and stuffing in preparation for a delicious meal on Thanksgiving. Are you the type of person who likes watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade? Or maybe you prefer the football games? Or do you go to sleep early in preparation for all those alluring Black Friday sales?
Sometimes, though, in all the wonderful, amazing rituals of this American holiday, we miss the reason.
Thankful, are we really thankful?
Even though I think of myself as a half-empty/pessimistic type of gal, I’d say I am generally thankful. When I take a second, stronger look, though, I’m not that sure.
To be totally transparent, I’m thankful as long as it’s convenient.
I’m thankful for all the gifts I’ve received. And I always thank the giver.
And, for all the comfortable, pleasant and awesome things God has showered on me, I lift up the occasional prayer of thanksgiving.
But then I delve a bit deeper: What about the painful experiences? Have I ever thanked God for my struggles? When I am in the midst of them, all I want to do is hightail it out of that situation. Even when looking back at how God orchestrated great personal growth during my battles, I rarely say, “Thank you, Lord, for making my life an awful mess.”
To me, it sounds a little silly:
Thank you, God, for the untidiness of my house. The dog hair, the unwashed dishes, the lack of organization.
Thank you for the struggle to pay the bills.
Thank you for being out of work and all the difficult and inelegant interviews in order to find work – that is, if I even get the interview!
Normally, we are thankful for only the blessings. Support, gifts, abundance. We are thankful then because it’s easy.
The sad truth of being human is discomfort is the only way we grow. Yet how many of us are thankful when we are sitting in the “valley of the shadow of death?”
My normal reaction is to cry out to God, expressing my displeasure, imploring Him to act quickly to get me out of my distress.
But I am not changed when all is going my way. I’m not transformed when my burdens are light. I don’t learn to trust God in those high-flying moments.
I am moved to trust God only when I’m faced with such difficulty I have no where else to turn. Those are the days when God strengthens me, holds me up, refocuses my attention on Him, then asks me to trust.
I’m grateful to Him for thinking so highly of me to use difficulties to craft me into a kinder, more beautiful person. Past unhappiness now brings a personal sense of wonder. Because of my wounds, grace and sympathy towards others is just a bit easier.
And while at Thanksgiving, I do want to thank God for all He has done to make my life easy – a warm bed, the glow of a fire in the fireplace, a satisfying meal and a fulfilling marriage – I also want to thank him for the struggles.
That involves making a choice – one I am making today – to taste the goodness of God even in the darkest moments of our lives.
Won’t you join me?