If Thanksgiving Feels Too Hard

It was the week before Thanksgiving. I pulled my red Camaro into the parking lot of the church and turned off the engine. Instead of springing out the door and heading up the flights of stairs that led to the sanctuary, I sat somberly, allowing my shoulders to slump and my head to fall forward to rest on the steering wheel.

At the time, I was newly single after my boyfriend blindsided me with a sudden breakup. I had already been through a terrible broken engagement in a previous relationship and finally felt like I had found what I had been searching for in a man. I was certain he was “The One” and I had never felt such crushing and deep pain over this new loss. As I sat in the gathering darkness, I considered heading back home instead of going into the evening service for singles—another reminder of my lonely condition. I knew that I had much to be thankful for this time of year but for the life of me, I couldn’t name one thing.

The CD player progressed to the next song as I tried to decide what to do. The lyrics of the song washed over me:

 Vineyard Music, Yet I Will Praise You

I will praise You Lord my God
Even in my brokenness
I will praise You Lord
I will praise You Lord my God
Even in my desperation
I will praise You Lord

And I can't understand
All that You allow
I just can't see the reason
But my life is in Your hands
And though I cannot see You
I choose to trust You

Even when my heart is torn I will praise (trust) You Lord
Even when I feel deserted I will praise (trust) You Lord
Even in my darkest valley I will praise (trust) You Lord
And when my world is shattered and it seems all hope is gone
Yet I will praise You Lord

I will trust You Lord my God
Even in my loneliness
I will trust You Lord
I will trust You Lord my God
Even when I cannot hear You
I will trust You Lord

And I will not forget
That You hung on a cross
Lord You bled and died for me
And if I have to suffer
I know that You've been there
And I know that You're here now.

I felt like the song had been written just for me. Just for this moment. The last thing I felt like doing was to praise the Lord and yet, that’s exactly what I needed to do. Even though my heart was torn. Even though I couldn’t see the reason for my pain. Even though I was in my darkest valley. I needed to praise the Lord and I needed to tell Him that I trusted Him.

This Thanksgiving is fast approaching. All around us, friends and family are expressing their gratitude for big and small blessings in their lives. But I wonder if all these joyful displays feel heavy and droll for those whose hearts are breaking.

Does any of this sound familiar to you? Your sister is fighting cancer, or your husband lost his job, or your circle of friends seems to have all but disappeared, or the depression you have battled for so many years is at its worst, or maybe you simply are caught up in the everyday challenges of parenting and nothing feels very joyful anymore.

This moment, this one that feels so deeply void of gratitude is the very moment with which we must offer a sacrifice of praise:

Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.  (Hebrews 13:15)

When we praise God sacrificially He fills us supernaturally.

That night, there in the parking lot, I allowed the tears to fall and as I sang that song, healing began in my heart. I decided to praise the Lord—to thank Him—for the things I did not understand and for the circumstances I could not control. The peace of Christ began to rule my heart and my hope was renewed. It’s a lesson I have never forgotten.

As Thanksgiving Day approaches, I urge you to do the same. Release your fears, frustrations, questions, anger, pain, and grief to the Lord and praise Him in the midst of it. And you will find, just as I did, that when we feel like we have nothing left to give, giving thanks replenishes our hearts and restores our hope. 

 

YOUR TURN! What can you thank God for today, even if it's difficult to praise Him right now?