It has been said that the holiday season is often the hardest time of year for those who have suffered grief or are walking through trials. I believe a lot of this has to do with the fact that, in all cultures, holidays are connected with traditions. Why do we love these traditions? Because they make us feel comfortable, they bring us consistency, they enhance our memories and bring us back to times before. These traditions are amped full of expectations; and when the unexpected hits, often this time of year can be the reminder of what used to be or what we wish was reality. These situations often can magnify all that more that which feels like the missing puzzle piece in our lives. You look around the family table, and you are yet again the only one without a “better half”. That cousin who gets pregnant just by saying the word pregnant is with child yet again; and you feel all the more barren. Your child, mom, sister, brother, friend is no longer on this earth; and your mind fills of what could have been had things looked differently. Social media makes it all the more challenging. Picture after picture of people celebrating all that they are thankful for; and the more full others’ tables look often the more empty yours feels.
The thing is, it won’t stop today. Here soon, the Christmas cards will begin to come and let the comparision game begin. Whether it is babies, marriage, material blessings, beauty, accolades, whatever; our human minds often go straight to a place of looking at the pros and cons of our own lives in light of another. It happens so quickly, often in the subconscious, and the next thing we know we are doing it yet again- but this year I beg us all to lean towards something different.
I am sitting at our home in Birmingham, coffee in hand, babies sleeping, husband at work. There are so many things to be unbelievably grateful for, but it would be easy to focus on the lack thereof. My mind could quickly take me to the place of, “I wish I had a husband who was off work today” or, “I wish the girls were running around the kitchen, stealing bites of food as we discussed Thanksgiving and they became “mommy’s little helpers”. Bitter, not thankful.
I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me.” – Psalm 13:6
Friends, He has dealt bountifully with each of us. In light of who He is, we can rejoice in all that is. Today, instead of being bitter for what we do not have, let’s be thankful for what we do have. Let’s not turn this into another year of comparision. Let’s make this an opportunity to rejoice in that which others are rejoicing. As fellow human beings, as creatures made by the same God, we can celebrate each others’ joys and support each other through the hards. It doesn’t have to hurt your heart when you see someone else grasping something you wish was yours. No. You can use that as a chance to exercise your faith and trust in the God who promises that He is working all things for good. You can authentically take that straight to the throne room, lay it at His feet, and praise Him for guaranteeing You that He knows what is best for each of us. I don’t want to look at your life and try to figure out a scale for who has things easier and who has things harder. I don’t want to waste energy looking for who is “happier” who is “more successful” who has more temporary bonuses. No. I want to be grateful for what He has placed both in your life and in mine. I desire to look at our lives separate yet united and be thankful for the lot that He has granted each of us. His lines have fallen in pleasant places, friends (Psalm 16).
“But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings…”-1 Peter 4:13
Did you see that? Christ’s sufferings. These trials you are walking in, whether you have recognized it or not, are not yours. They are His. Why? Because He has already overcome them at the cross! That is something to rejoice in over and over again, day after day. In all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us and gave Himself up for us! (Romans 8:37). Friends, this life is not a competition. Read that again. This life is not a competition. The world might scream otherwise, but here is the truth: if it was a competition, Jesus already won it. He is the only One who has ever led a perfect life, and you know what? A perfect life did not include perfect circumstances from the world’s eyes. Jesus came to this earth, and His whole purpose here was to glorify God in His suffering. He did not look to the right or left wondering why His lot was different than His neighbors; because He entrusted His steps to the God He knew. He believed in the depths of who He was that God’s plans and purposes were perfect. What an example for us to live by both today and always.
On this Thanksgiving morning, I am so thankful. I am mostly grateful for a God who thought it important enough to spend eternity with me that He died on a cross to make that happen. I am grateful for the grace He gives me each and every day. His power is the only thing that can uphold us, and it is through looking through His wise, loving perspective that we are given the ability to put others above ourselves and rejoice in all that is in each of our lives. I am thankful for a God-fearing, hard-working, loving (might I add, extremely good-looking) husband that is providing for our families and working overtime for a season in order to fulfill the calling God has on His life. I am thankful for two beautiful, joy- filled little toddlers that sleep peacefully in their room; for the opportunity to spend today looking at their smiles and cuddling their soft skin. I am also grateful for those things that sometimes feel like salt in a wound; for I know it is in these things that God is causing me to depend all the more on Him and focus on that which matters. I do not know what tomorrow holds, but today, I will be grateful for all that is. Dear reader, I also commit to you to try to do the same in light of your own life. I promise to attempt to feel pure joy for you when you post that picture of your child eating their first Thanksgiving meal. I promise to not take it as a personal offense when you post the video of that child taking their first steps. I promise to, instead, take those fleshy thoughts to the throne and thank God for the lines and the portions that He has chosen for you, knowing that it is His best for you as well. We all have so much to be thankful for, both today and always. He has granted us grace upon grace. Let’s choose to let the joy in our hearts overflow in all things; rejoicing in the hope to come and the gifts already bestowed. Happy Thanksgiving, friends!
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”- 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18