Tomorrow Americans will gather around crowded tables and indulge in a gluttonous feast of Thanksgiving. There will be laughter and hugs, perhaps some football, and maybe some naps for us older folk. We may or may not think about that for which we are thankful. Truthfully, some of us may feel like we have little to be thankful for; 2014 has been a difficult year burdened with heartache and loss and those losses cut so deeply that it’s tempting to be anything but grateful. Ironically, when my heart is filled with the heaviest of dark burdens, it is thanksgiving (the very thing I am most resistant to) that soothes my soul.
It’s easy for me to camp in the ungrateful camp. I look around and I see people I love struggling. Two friends and a family member all lost children in the past year; one just three days ago – right before Thanksgiving. At least three other people I love are battling cancer. We’ve had some difficult struggles in regards to our church home that resulted in what felt like what I imagine a painful divorce would feel like. And I don’t understand any of that; not the loss of a child, cancer, or churches being broken and divided. Those things cut me to my core. And no amount of crying or talking or hugging will bring back a child or cure cancer. There’s just nothing to be done. It just is what it is.
But now, it’s Thanksgiving and I am supposed to put on my happy face and share all that I am thankful for – even in the midst of deep, abiding sadness. Admittedly, there is a part of me that just wants to wallow. I mean, wallowing is easy; I can blame everyone else for everything that has gone wrong. I can get mad and throw a big pity party. And none of that takes much effort. Thankfully, God’s Word is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16). It also cuts to the core. So when I read Psalm 100 the other day, I had no choice but to give thanks. It was right there in black and white:
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.
Making a joyful noise may not mend broken friendships. My singing surely won’t bring back a child. But knowing that the LORD is God and that I am his child makes all of that bearable. And that alone is something for which to be grateful.