Thanksgiving doesn’t always come easily to the heart heavy with grief or the soul battling weariness. It’s much easier to count our sufferings one by one; it’s much easier to lay out our burdens and keep a running list of them in our heads. But to take our weary hands and raise them in praise? To turn our tear-stained faces to heaven in song? That is a battle hard fought. But the truth is that thanksgiving is healing for the heartbroken. To be a person of gratitude—a person who seeks to praise God for the big and small—is not to ignore or minimize the stress we are facing in our day-to-day lives. Stress remains stressful, pain remains painful, sorrow remains sorrowful. But the heart that gives thanks is one that participates in an intentional act to live a life of joy amid trials.
But oh, how difficult it can be to pull those blooming blessings up without yanking the weeds of agony along with them. But the road to healing is one of praise and thanksgiving. When your heart is broken from diminished dreams, or your spirit heavy with uncertainty, it can feel impossible to be thankful. We can so easily fall into a spiral of “if only.” But a life of thanksgiving surpasses “if only,” and seeks to exist in the space of “even then.” Our hearts may think that if only we had that one thing, we could be happy. However, thanksgiving trusts that even if our dreams are withheld, even then He is good. Even then He is faithful. Even then we can be thankful. Where our minds naturally look to what lays ahead, thanksgiving embraces what is and seeks to praise Him in whatever season that may be.
Remember the One who calls us Beloved.
Remember all the gifts He has given.
Take hold of your heart, and remind it of every gift, every blessing, every moment of sustaining grace. For though we cannot change the broken roads that lay behind, or the ones that stretch ahead, we can preach thanksgiving to our souls. Though we cannot see the purpose in every pain, we can see our God, who does nothing without intention. Despite how dark the night appears, there is always a break of dawn. No matter the grief, there is always thanksgiving to be found. Even on the days when your weariness feels especially overwhelming, still His kindness overwhelms more. So, we can push onward despite our brokenness, knowing it is Jesus that holds us together. Never has there been a moment when He has not held us within His embrace; never have we walked alone.
There are good gifts from God everywhere.
From the people in your life that make your soul glad, to the sunset that paints the world in splashes of orange and red. There is joy to be found when we praise our God for all the beautiful things He has given to us. It may not change our situation, but it changes our perspective. We cannot mold life to fit what we think makes us happy, but we can give our hearts to the Potter who can mold us into joyful beings that seek to bring Him glory.
Maybe as we head into this Thanksgiving and holiday season you don’t feel very thankful. Maybe gratitude seems foreign, or something that’s been placed on the backburner as you’ve scrambled to keep your head above water. That doesn’t have to be so. To have a heart of thanksgiving is to live radically different from the rest of the world. To sing in the valley and praise in the darkness is to go against human nature. But we have reason to sing; we have reason to praise. We know that our Savior is worthy of all honor and praise. We know that joy comes with the morning because we know the One who beckons the morning to come.
In knowing our Savior and in trusting in His goodness, we can lift our hands in thanksgiving for all that He’s done and all He will do. The pen that puts to paper the goodness of its God is the sword with which we fight the battle against bitterness. Our circumstances in life will constantly shift and the pain of this world will persist, but His love for us never wavers. We can find rest in Jesus, who never changes, and whose love never ceases to reach beyond our weariness.
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- 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18