Thanksgiving last year was tough for us. We had just returned to the States after unexpectedly leaving Elizabeth behind in Congo. We had never dreamed we’d be flying home without her, and we had no idea when we would be able to return to Congo to bring her home. Being home for Thanksgiving, especially without our daughter, was not in the plans, and I wanted no part of it. Alas, the day rolled around and we rallied the best we could. We wore forced smiles and filled our bellies while our thoughts remained on our daughter halfway across the world. Sure, I had much to be thankful for. So much. Cognitively, I knew this, but my heart was just not there. I had to fight for thankfulness last year.
I know many of you are in this same boat this holiday season. You’re still waiting for your child to come home, and there’s no end in sight. It’s the first holiday since you said goodbye to your parent, and the thought seems unbearable. The diagnosis still stands. The prognosis seems grim. The prayer hasn’t been answered. And the notion of giving thanks in the midst of it all feels impossible.
To those of you who are nodding in agreement- who are fighting for joy and for thankfulness this holiday season- it’s okay. It’s okay to feel the sense of dread as the turkey is carved and the Christmas lights go up. It’s okay to feel that your pursuit of joy this year is indeed a battle. It’s okay to momentarily escape the festivities and laughter and feasting to take a breather when the pain threatens to overwhelm. It’s okay because life can be straight up hard, and thankfulness does not always come easily.
Maybe you can make it your goal to identify one thing for which you’re thankful this holiday season. Just one. And when you feel the tears welling up and the darkness creeping in, call that to mind. And if that is even too tough, look for truth. Truth that, regardless of our circumstances, does not change.
For me, it’s the truth of God’s faithfulness and goodness and mercy and grace to which I desperately cling. The truth of God’s promise that He will never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6) and that He is mighty to save (Zephaniah 3:17). Truth like the radical love of God that was on display for us when, in our sin, Christ died for us (Romans 5:6-8) and the power that was demonstrated through His resurrection (Romans 6:9). Because even when I’m just not feeling it and the words of praise and thanksgiving aren’t flowing naturally, these truths remain no matter what.
And man, if that’s not something to be thankful for, I’m really not sure what is.