Today, there are people all over our nation who question whether today is really a happy day. Countless families have been struck by devastation lately, and it can cause some of us to question whether it really is a happy thanksgiving, especially when the absence of a loved one or a dream is exacerbated during the holidays. If you have any doubts in your heart, you are not alone.
Two years ago, I suffered incredible depression during the holidays. My husband had deployed and, since my parents were out of town, I discovered that every experience I enjoy celebrating during the holiday season had been eliminated in their absence. Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the Christmas season and I have always enjoyed cooking on Thanksgiving Eve. I had no idea how my husband’s deployment would effect me and I instantly suffered a loss that I hadn’t prepared for. I found myself wandering through stores, feeling displaced, since home no longer felt like home anymore, and finally crying myself to sleep.
Loss and heartache can cause us to question whether there is a God, if He truly is as loving as we believe, where He’s at in the midst of the pain. We can even fall into the trap of believing that others are insensitive when they praise him without acknowledging our pain. Wherever you are in this season, whether you are supporting someone through a hard time, walking through a hard time yourself, or simply wondering how to pray for someone who may be walking through a hard time, I want to encourage you. Jesus, our Lord and Savior, the one who walked on this earth as God in the flesh to bring us back into relationship with God wandered for years, very likely feeling displaced from birth.
Holidays have always been founded on sacrifice. Think of the sacrifice that was involved in Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the Fourth of July, or Thanksgiving. The holidays that we are preparing to celebrate and take delight in, like Christmas and Easter, came at Jesus’ expense. He wasn’t born into a comfy situation that others would have envied. He was rejected at birth, born in a manger that animals eat from, because there wasn’t any room for his parents to rent. Wrap your mind around that. They couldn’t even rent a room! Jesus’ stability at home was disrupted when he was a child, as well, when an angel of the Lord gave Joseph, Jesus’ step father, instructions to move to Egypt since the child was being sought out to be killed (Matthew 2:13). Terrorism was rampant at that time too, and it has always been incomprehensible, but Jesus knows what it’s like to be the subject of a senseless attack. As an adult Jesus said, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head” (Luke 9:58). Jesus’ purpose was to share the love of God, and he did that by sacrificing comfort, every day of his life. As you ponder questions about what is going on within your life and when it will all get better, remember that God is close to the broken hearted and he wants to rescue those whose spirits are crushed (Psalm 34:18).
What’s the point? Regardless of what you have found gratitude in today, we can all praise God that we have a high priest, a big brother, in Jesus Christ who knows exactly what it feels like to suffer loss, pain, heartache, and displacement, and he will be by our side, no matter what (Hebews 4:15). Accept him into your heart today and feel his peace, a peace that passes all understanding, begin to guard your heart (Philippians 4:7).
Today, you might not have happiness, but you can have joy. Joy is the expressed in satisfaction that transcends our circumstances. As we prepare to pray, I’m wishing you a Joyful Thanksgiving.
Dear God, please come into our hearts and guard us as we endure the pain, the loss, and the heartache that we notice so acutely right now. Today, we choose joy. The joy of the Lord gives us strengthen and today, we feel new strength to laugh, to smile, to embrace peace. We are grateful that we are not alone. You know what it’s like to suffer and you know what it’s like to endure pain so send comfort through the company of others and the presence of your Holy Spirit as we hold on to the hope that lies before us, hope that it won’t always be like this. Thank you for your grace and mercy, your compassion and love, in Jesus’ name, amen.
For this is how God loved the world: He gave[a] his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
-John 3:16-17 NLT