Today is Thanksgiving! A most wonderful time of the year. A time when families get together, the smell of all kinds of foods and sweets fill the household, the sounds of children’s laughter and baby giggles, dogs barking, cats hiding, upbeat music playing in the background, maybe even a gathering of people in the yard to play a family tradition of football before watching the big game on the big screen. Family is such a huge part of the feeling of Thanksgiving. In every family there are traditions, certain things which are done year after year. For my family, we would always travel to my grandmother’s house where everyone would meet, and you could always bet what was going to be on the menu because we had the same things year after year. It was so comforting to know that I would be amongst family, laughing, playing, talking, and we always ended up playing cards until late into the evening, after other family members had gone home or gone out holiday shopping. The smells, the sights, the memories, THAT’S what I’m talking about when I am talking about the feeling of Thanksgiving.
The Bible also talks about Thanksgiving. However, it is far from the fleshly expectations, sights, sounds, and feelings that I have talked about. Instead, there is a greater, more powerful feeling of thanksgiving. I’ll mention a few of those verses to draw an idea of the kind of Thanksgiving that we are to have in the presence of the Lord, to give thanks to a good, good Father.
2 Chronicles 5:13 reads, “The trumpeters and musicians joined in unison to give praise and thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals, and other instruments, the singers raised their voices in praise to the Lord and sang, ‘He is good; His love endures forever.’ …
2 Corinthians 4:15 reads, “All this is for your benefit, so that the grace is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
Philippians 4:6-7 reads, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Colossians 3:17 reads, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
1 Timothy 4:4-5 reads, “For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.
Thanksgiving—to give thanks. The Bible tells us that thanksgiving is giving thanks to God for ALL that He has created, and that “all of this is for your benefit.” He also asks us to pray to Him in every situation with thanksgiving. Given that definition of thanksgiving, I have a confession to make. I don’t feel very thankful right now. Even though the Bible commands me not to be anxious, I still struggle with anxiety. And the one that sticks out to me, asks me to give thanks to God for everything, regardless of what I am doing whether that be in word from what I am saying, or in my deeds, my actions and behaviors. On this Thanksgiving, I am hurting deeply, and I don’t feel as thankful to God today.
You see, last Thanksgiving was the start of an end. A beginning of a path that I did not wish to go down, a dark path which God asked me to walk down. The great thing is, I was asked to walk along that path with my Mom, so I wasn’t alone! Last Thanksgiving was the day that my Mom told me that they had found cancerous cells when a couple months before, they had found none. Last Thanksgiving was the last day that my Mom was able to eat anything and keep it down. It would be the last time she ate, and I had cooked that for her. What followed was a whirlwind of events, which spiraled down to me bringing her home for the last time. I had to walk my Mom to God. That was the journey which God had asked me to partake. I admit I was not very eager to walk this path. Yet, I had choices I could have made. I could have told God no. I could have refused to listen to my Mom’s wishes. I could have chosen to place my Mom in a care facility instead of choosing to sacrifice my time and my sleep during the week of Christmas. I could have chosen to hate God and become angry with Him again in a rebellious attempt for my Mom to stay (as if being childish and throwing a temper tantrum and telling God NO would have kept my Mom here.) No, I was not thankful to God at all during that time. And as the memories replay in my head, the same feelings of hurt are hanging around. How could I thank God for asking me to walk my Mom to him after He had helped me reconcile our relationship? How could I thank Him for asking me to hand over my Mom, my one chance at having the best friend I always wanted and dreamed of, the one thing I had ever wanted in my whole life—a loving relationship with my Mom? I was not Job, I was not David, I was not Jesus; so how could I look Him in the eye, be asked to sacrifice my Mom by giving her to Him, and then tell him “Thank you for taking my Mom away from me?” That was how I felt. I find myself still feeling this way. This is part of my recovery—forgiveness. Although I had the choice not to follow what God had asked of me, I chose to trust Him and I followed His direction. I kept my faith and my trust in God, even during the dark times. I still do.
How did Job give thanks? How did David give thanks? How did Jesus give thanks? They each made a CHOICE. Guess what? I ALSO have a choice. I have a choice to give thanks. I may not feel thankful at the time, yet if I read Romans 8:28, God can work ALL things for His glory, for His good. Even death. My feelings are just that…feelings. Feelings are not facts. Just because I am overwhelmed with feelings of grief, of memories, I can still CHOOSE to give thanks. God knows my heart. I am not feeling unthankful because I am selfishly angry at God because I did not get something I wanted. I am unthankful because I am grieving. I am enduring emotional pain. Even Jesus grieved. How can I learn to deal and cope with negative emotions if I never allow myself to feel them?
God, I choose to give thanks to you today and I trust that regardless of what has happened, regardless of what I feel, I know and have faith that you can work everything for your good. I know that I cannot do this on my own, and that I am powerless on my own. I am working to fully understand that I matter to you and that you have the power to help me through these times of unbelief and feelings of ingratitude. I am choosing to commit my life to you and your will and I understand that at times you will ask me to do what is difficult, not necessarily what I want or desire. I ask you to continue to remove my character defects so that you can make me more like you in every way. Restore my relationships, God. Help me change. Help my unbelief. Lord, I thank you for loving me during the dark times as well as the pleasant times. Thank you for trusting me enough to ask me to partake these difficult journeys. God, thank you for loving me.
God, I also pray that you will reach out to those other souls who may be broken and feeling as I feel, and I ask that you wrap your healing, comforting arms around them and remind them that they are dearly loved. I ask that you give them the courage to speak up even when the enemy tries to silence them. Lord, I thank you for the lives of everyone.
April Brantley, CR Mental Health Team X-Factor