GIVE THANKS? FOR WHAT?
Christine sat at the Thanksgiving table feeling numb. Unlike most people, she didn’t feel like celebrating. What was there to be thankful for?
As tradition had it, everyone sitting around the table told what he or she was thankful for. Christine said, “Family.” But she knew that her family would never be the same again. Her mom had died just six days before.
She thought back 13 months to the night she came home from vespers to find the family doctor there. Her mom looked like she’d been crying. Then Christine was told the horrible news: her mother had a terminal illness.
Her mom tried different treatments for over a year, but the day came when she was too weak to travel to the clinic. “I camped out on the floor by Mom’s bed for like a week,” Christine told me. “I didn’t want to leave her side.” Then one day, in her sleep, her mom simply stopped breathing and was gone.
Thanksgiving came just six days later, and the memorial service the day after that.
Christine told me, “In past years, we had always been excited about Thanksgiving. We usually got to my grandparent’s house early to visit, and after dinner we’d watch football. But that first Thanksgiving without Mom, it just didn’t feel right. So we ate and left.
“The next Thanksgiving, was actually more difficult. That whole season is always hard for me because it brings back memories. Even now—five years later—I have a tough time from the first of November through Thanksgiving.”
I recently asked Christine, “So what do you do with that? How to you handle Thanksgiving? What do you do when everyone else is talking about family and what they’re thankful for?”
She answered, “I look for the positive—for reasons to be thankful. I think about the fact that I still have my dad and sisters. I have other family and friends that I love. I try to focus on other people who might be at Thanksgiving dinner that loved Mom, too, because I’m not the only one who is hurting.
“There’s so much about my mom’s life to be thankful for. I’m thankful that she was always there for us. I’m thankful that she made even simple things fun. We didn’t have a lot of money but we had extreme amounts of fun! I’m thankful that during her illness she was never negative and never complained. And that she laughed—a lot!
“The biggest thing I’m thankful for is that Mom taught me how to always be kind to everybody. She drilled into my head the importance of that, and I’ve tried to live it out. She taught me that you never know what someone else might be going through, and they may need a friend. Mom didn’t just teach me this—she showedme. That’s huge.
“And I can always be thankful that God is there for me. I know that sounds clichéd, but it’s true! Even if you don’t feel God’s presence, He’s always there. You’re never alone.”
Find Your Thanks
What Christine does with her Thanksgiving reminds me of the text in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (NLT). Some people have misunderstood this text to mean that we should be thankful for all circumstances. But how can that be? How can you be thankful that someone you loved died, that your parents’ divorced, that your best friend betrayed you, that your girlfriend broke up with you, or that you lost your job?
That’s not what God’s asking. He’s asking that you be thankful in all circumstances. In other words, in the middle of the tough times, find things to be thankful for.
This Thanksgiving, deliberately look for things to be thankful for. They don’t have to be big things. They can be little, everyday things. Write them down on a piece of paper that you keep in a private place, and read them often. You’ll discover that even if life is tough at times, there are still things to be thankful for.
If you think that you can’t come up with anything, here’s one for you: Someone loved you enough to die for you. And He’s coming back to take you to Heaven where every day will be a day of giving thanks.
—Written by Pastor Nancy Canwell