I love this post on Fast Pray's blog. It discusses how to be thankful in times of singleness, divorce, death, loss during the holiday season. I love what the author says in these two paragraphs, particularly the last sentence about thankfulness being an act of surrender, trust and worship.
"It is so easy to offer our praise and thanks to God when things are good in our lives, basically when we feel thankful. But what I constantly have to remind myself of is that thankfulness isn’t simply a feeling that comes from good things happening. It’s an orienting of the heart that, as we practice it, re-focuses our attention away from painful circumstances and back on Jesus, strengthening our awareness of His consistent presence which is necessary if we’re to endure the many things life throws at us on a regular basis. It is indeed a practice, and one that might not initially match where our hearts are. It can seem inauthentic, as though we’re denying our true feelings or suffering.
As is usually case, the way in which God calls us to follow Him is radically different than what feels natural in this world. I can honestly say I never want to give thanks for the pain in my life. And yet on the occasions I try, I notice that something very subtle shifts inside of me. It’s like a small chasm of space opens up and gives God more room to take up residence with the pain and do the work in my life He’s after. In these instances thankfulness takes on a very different definition, becoming an act of surrender, trust, and worship rather than simply a response to circumstances."
I'll be honest. This year, despite a lot of loss in our family, I've also got tons to be grateful for, so its less of a struggle (than it has been in the past) to thank God for the good things in my life like family, friends, job and Dave. BUT I have had those years where thankfulness was incredibly hard - after breakups, broken engagements, in the middle of law school finals when the economy looks so gloomy that it seems I won't find a job, when I was single yet again, etc. Sometimes I have failed at thankfulness and sometimes I have truly been thankful despite my circumstances. And some years I have failed and succeeded (women are fickle after all, so my feelings change through the season or even the day ha!)
And sometimes others probably thought I was failing when thankfulness didn't sound like loud jubilant praises.... because some years, thankfulness is exactly what the author said: "an act of surrender, trust, and worship rather than simply a response to circumstances." Some years, thankfulness is putting one foot in front of the other and continuing to move forward, admitting that your circumstances are hard, but thanking the Lord that He is with you and has plans for you. Sometimes thankfulness is saying Lord I trust and will surrender. For me, thankfulness was often giving myself 30 min or an hour to be upset and pray about the situation, then accepting the situation for what it was and moving on to spend the rest of the Holiday celebrating and worshiping. Afterall, Christmas is not about my marital statuts, my job status, my issues with family or friends; it is about my Savior's birth and the hope that brought and stilll brings. Likewise, thanksgiving is not about what I don't have, but about the many many times God has been faithful throughout the years. That is something to celebrate despite all my circumstances!
And despite the difficulties in my life, I have always found such HOPE in the holidays. So many people have hard holidays ahead. My heart breaks for friends that will be facing this holiday season after the loss of loved ones, divorce, pain, etc. But I am encouraged to know that in their quiet, "fought for" thankfulness and trust, God can provide HOPE!