It’s 8:00 Thanksgiving morning and I’m still in my PJs, snuggling with my dog-who-thinks-she’s-still-a-puppy. That’s something I am really thankful for.
I’m also grateful for this warm house and plenty of blankets to ward off the cold outside.
I’ve come to the realization lately that not being thankful for – or even cognizant of – my blessings is a major factor in the joyless, depressive state I’ve been living in for a while. Focusing all my attention on the negative is exactly what Satan wanted me because it made me completely useless for the kingdom of God for an entire year or more. I can act with the best of them and I’ve got a smile that can hide the tears in my eyes. But I’ve been withdrawn and sad for a long time. If you don’t believe me, ask my best friend. Well, first, ask her if we’re even friends anymore … with less than a mile between us, we’ve talked once in the past year.
Enough about that, though. Let’s talk about being thankful. Talking about thankfulness on Thanksgiving has got to be the biggest cliche in the world, so I wrestled with even writing this. Who’s going to read it with all the Turkey Pranks and RealTime videos circulating today? But then, does it even matter if no one else reads this? I’m just grateful for the opportunity to write it, while nestled in between two pups who are holding down the comforter that’s hugging me. It’s bliss!
Of course, I’m thankful for all the material things I have. The house, the car that gets me to work, toilet paper (yes, this list is first to last and TP is up there), my Bible, food and clothing, and all the wonderful things God has provided to make my life more comfortable. I watched a video last night on PBS about the hardest places on Earth that people actually live, and I’m really grateful I don’t live in an arctic region or a dry, arid place. Although a dry, arid place might make my face feel a little better. I’m thinking my first stock investment might be Mucinex …
I’m also grateful for my family. My kids, who keep me honest and humbled. Who see me fail and still love me and forgive me. I’m thankful for siblings who still come around and call with such fidelity even though I hole up and disappear for months on end when I’m sad. I’m thankful for mornings with my mom at the gym, getting fit but really just there to see her every day. I’m thankful for a stepdad who should have been my real father. But God knows what we need when we need it most so I’m just glad he’s here. He’s the best.
I’m thankful for a church family, too. Those flawed people who refuse to quit on me and who lift me up in prayer far more than I know about. They’re an extension of the hands and feet of God in my life and I am so grateful to know Him more through them.
This year, I’m finally able to say I am also thankful for the suffering. I used to wonder what James meant when he said to be thankful for our sufferings. It used to really upset me that he would raise such a high bar with that statement (James 1:2) and then not tell me how I’m supposed to be genuinely overjoyed while life feels so awful. Finally, I think I get it, though.
If I have learned nothing else over the past few years, it is that suffering draws us nearer to God. When your life is so shaken that everything that can be shaken falls away (Hebrews 12:27), you realize that the only thing in your life that cannot be shaken is God. Your friendships, your familial relationships, your job, your bank account, your tithing, your ministry, all of these things and so much more can be shaken and broken up. They can all be destroyed in some way. Even your self-righteousness or your self-made holiness. All the things you do to make God proud, or yourself proud, all of those things can be uprooted in a flash of anger and confrontation. In that place, where the wreckage lies scattered all around, you will find that when you look up to God, He’s still right where you last saw Him and He’s acutely aware of you. Still waiting with open arms. Still willing to take you into them. And all of this because Christ decided, before you were even capable of some semblance of goodness on your own, that you were worth dying for. I’m so grateful for that.
If you can’t find anything to be thankful for this year, that alone is enough. Even if your friends have deserted you, your family has turned their backs, your kids are such teenagers, or your job is a dead end street, you can rest today knowing that the Word says He loves us so much, no price was too much to pay to have us back from sin and death. He loves us so much, He is pouring out blessings. Open your eyes and see them! God is good, and for that, I am so very, very grateful. Happy Thanksgiving, friends!