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  • Writer's pictureEphemeral & Faithful

Can Thanksgiving & Trials Dwell Together?

Thanksgiving (n): the expression of gratitude, especially to God. An easy enough definition to comprehend, not always so easy to put into action, especially in the presence of intense trials.

Can thanksgiving and trials coincide together? They seem to clash violently, repelling sharply against each other, and coexistence is tense and tiresome. Yet for the Christian, they can strangely coincide beautifully, both bringing glory to Christ as we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus as He perfects our faith through trial and thanksgiving.

“Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” ~ Hebrews 12:2

Loneliness. Loved ones who have passed away. Broken relationships. Health challenges. Financial woes. Exhaustion. Dysfunctional families. Depression. Spiritual warfare. Mental illness. The list goes on…

Pain from such trials as listed above often hangs like a dreary cloud over days full of joy. We can’t shake it. Happiness feels fake, smiles are forced, and laughter sounds hollow as it originates from a deep pit of gut-wrenching pain. On Thanksgiving Day, while the rest of the friends and family moves about surrounded by the traditional delights of food, fellowship, football, and festivities, those who are hurting from the shrapnel of life’s traumas are moving mindlessly through the day, drowning in the constant pain from life’s wounds, yet trying desperately to keep their heads up and force a smile as they numbly participate in the day’s activities, yet some of the activities may easily rip open a wound. One person mourns the fact that he can’t participate in family sports due to recovery from illness. Another grieves the empty chair at the dinning room table due to the loss of a loved one. Another is broken over the lack of tender affection shown on a holiday due to a broken relationship. Another sadly doesn’t have a tasty meal to enjoy due to financial limitations. Another sheds tears of loneliness due to an empty house with only a fuzzy critter as company. Another feels left out from partaking in the delicious dishes that are served due to serious food allergies or digestive system failure. Another sits in the bathroom seeking desperate solitude due to a houseful of tension-filled family members.

Life can be utterly brutal to humanity. No one asked for it, yet all were subjected to it. So it is with most of the struggles in life. We never ask for them, yet they are consequence of sin and we are bearing the weight of this consequence. So how can gratitude possibly be shown in light of these grievances? Grief is an easy acquaintance, gratitude seems to be a stranger.

I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo. "So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us. ~ The Fellowship of The Ring

Wise words from Gandalf. And much wiser words are found in the sacred treasure of Scripture. Biblical thanksgiving is not gratitude expressed around a table on a singular day, but is expressed in our daily lifestyle per Philippians 4:6, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." Thanksgiving is not just one day filled with fellowship with family and friends, but is a life filled with fellowship with Christ per Psalm 95:2, "Let us come before Him with thanksgiving and extol Him with music and song." Thanksgiving is not a massive meal full of tasty dishes in remembrance of the Pilgrim’s tradition years ago that is shared amongst friends and family today, but is a cup of thanksgiving offered to the Lord and shared with fellow believers as a timeless remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice of love per 1 Corinthians 10:16, "Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?"

This Thanksgiving Day, I could no sadly longer eat most of the foods that I helped cook and serve, there were many empty seats at our table and in my heart from loved ones lost, my body will not permit me to play in a Turkey Bowl football game or other sports games, and my heart is extremely heavy from the traumatic brokenness of this year. All of us are hurting in one regard or another from a variety of struggles. There is a cloud over the holidays for many, but by God’s grace, I pray we will work to find and allow the sun beams of gratitude to break through our cloud. I’m learning to let thanksgiving coincide with trials. It’s hard process, but the Lord helps guide me gently with His never fading strength. Many times, it’s much easier to just let the cloud hang, especially when we’ve lived in pain for so long that the cloud becomes some kind of comfort zone, and it’s too exhausting to try to move into any other zone.

It’s hard work to live in Biblical thanksgiving, and we are not promised an easy journey as a follower of Christ. Nevertheless, living in thanksgiving is doable. Seek and find earthly blessings to express gratitude for to the Lord. And if there seems to be nothing of earthly matters that we can seem to find in the midst of our cloud of pain, we can look beyond this ephemeral world and be eternally grateful for the gift of victory in Jesus, the hope He has given us through the gift of salvation, and His steadfast love and righteousness.

“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever!” ~ Psalm 107:1

All that being said, when is a Christian is supposed to offer thanksgiving to the Lord in life? In trial, in blessing, or in both? It’s easy to give thanks in times of blessings, when all of life seems to be going just as we hoped and planned. It’s when life flips upside down or dreams are crushed that showing gratitude becomes a massive struggle to pull our focus off our troubles, and instead fix our hearts on the Lord and His eternal gifts that won’t be crushed or flipped upside down. He is steady and so are His promises. Give thanks for these truths.

“ Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” ~ Ephesians 5:20

We are to express thanksgiving in all circumstances. An interesting point to be made is that the verse below instructs us to give thanks IN all circumstances, not FOR all circumstances. For instance, I am not thankful for my diseases themselves and the negative impact they’ve had, but I can and should offer gratitude to God despite the disease that ravages my body. These acts of gratitude that can truly only be done by the power of the Holy Spirit and God’s strength, which is one reason why we must seek Him daily and strengthen our personal relationship with Him.

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:18

These Scriptures confirm that thanksgiving and trial can and should indeed dwell together. The act of letting gratitude coincide with pain is sacrificing our struggles for God’s glory by pulling our focus off them and letting thankfulness wash over our brokenness like a soothing balm. Expressing thanksgiving in the midst of pain is an incredible way to show others the power of our God, the steadfastness of His character, the righteousness of His heart, and the joy found in His unbroken promises. Learn to let thanksgiving and pain dwell in harmony together to humbly show Christ. Let's all work together to give thanks to the King and Savior, the only One who deserves all glory and honor and thanksgiving.

“Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving.” ~ Psalm 50:14
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