I’ve always considered myself a thankful person. Thankful for my husband and children. Thankful for my family and friends. Thankful for my home and possessions, my education, upbringing, and heritage of faith.
But I’m learning that’s not what true thankfulness is really about. It’s a no-brainer to be thankful for the good things in my life.
True thankfulness is being thankful for ALL of life.
The good. The bad. The ugly. The annoying. The frustrating. The unexplained. The unanswerable. The heartache. The loss.
If this past year of life has taught me anything it’s that time is precious. It’s put my priorities back in their proper place and reminded me to be thankful for every day I’m given. Unexpectedly losing my daddy combined with the sudden possibility of losing my husband was like a bucket of ice water dumped over my soul. It jolted my mind with the stark reality that this earthly life does in fact come to an end.
Sure, we all “know” death is inevitable, but how many of us live like it? Won’t we always have another day? Another chance? Another holiday to get together? Another time to sort problems out?
We envision life going according to The Plan.
Our parents will grow old together, and with beautiful silver hair, rock on the porch as the sun sets on them. They will live a long life, see their grand babies and great grands. And though we will miss them, their passing will be timely; a result of the circle of life. Acceptable.
Our own life will look much the same. We expect to grow old with our husbands, retire together and travel. We put in the work to raise our kids right. They become competent, decent adults, out on their own, so we can finally get back to just the two of us. We have a lifetime together to pursue happiness.
We hear of unexpected tragedies, but we never expect they will happen to us.
So how are we to be thankful when they do? When The Plan doesn’t go accordingly? When life as we’ve known it collapses and just doesn’t make sense anymore?
“Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”- 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 TLB
Honestly, from where I’ve stood over the past 12 months, I read verses like this and I feel beat up by them. This is what I should be doing– I should be joyful and thankful during the most tragic season of my life. These words don’t feel comforting while you’re suffering. At times, they feel downright impossible. How can you ask me to be thankful for this, Lord? Why?
If not for The Lord, my family and my faithful friends, I would be in a straight jacket by this point. I have no idea how non-believers survive tragedy because even walking hand in hand with Jesus, this is the hardest storm I’ve ever had to navigate. Panic attacks at 3am. Heart wrenching questions from my kids. Financial woes and worries. It’s a lot for a person to take.
But then I come to passages like this one, and though I don’t have a solid answer to my How or Why, somehow it makes sense in my soul.
“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
1 Peter 1:6-7 NIV
I can no longer read these words without tears.
And without being thankful.
I am thankful for this season, though it seem so crushingly evil. I’m thankful to be made more aware of His presence. I’m thankful I no longer overlook His peace. I’m thankful I don’t just count my blessings but seek to relish in them. I’m thankful Eternity is now a real destination.
When we set the table this Thanksgiving, Daddy will be missed. When we carve the turkey, he will be remembered. When we give thanks to the Lord, he will be honored. For Jesus has carried us through this first year without him. And I expect he will carry us through the next.
That’s The Plan.
And for that my heart is thankful.
“You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever!”
Psalms 30:11-12 NLT