We’re told that Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful. It’s a time to reflect, and to consider all the ways we’ve been blessed. It’s a time to give our gratitude to God for our families, our home, and our health and our freedoms. To count our blessings and hold close the ones we love.
I appreciate that perspective, because I think that there is a lot to be said about a heart of gratitude. It’s important to take the time to thank God for all that is good in our life, and there is so much power in perspective.
But what if giving thanks means more than just counting our blessings?
What if being thankful meant surrendering our struggles, too?
As much as I want to be thankful for all the good this year, if I’m completely honest—this has been one of the hardest years of my life. It’s come with a lot of trials, a lot of tears, and a lot of pain. As I look back on this year, even some of the greatest joys have been rooted in moments of deep suffering.
I know I am not alone in my struggles.
I can’t possibly begin to tell you about the countless emails I’ve received this year, as well as the numerous conversations I’ve had with people who are going through some really hard times. Men and women struggling with loneliness, addictions, and anxiety.Depression, illness, and death. Divorce, infertility, and injustice. People struggling to deal with one hard thing or another. Broken hearts, confused minds, hurting bodies.
Life can be so hard. And sometimes, God can seem so very far away.
For many people, the holidays aren’t filled with thanksgiving and cheer, because instead, they’re filled with pain and suffering.
They’re filled with the gnawing, aching reminder of what was lost—or what never was.
Through the hard times, the most profound lesson I’m learning involves redefining of my definition of Thanksgiving. I am challenged to be more than just “thankful”.
I am challenged to do something even more difficult—I’m challenged trust.
I am proclaiming right now that in times of suffering, a heart of gratitude means more than just saying “thank you”—it means believing that God is who He says He is. Believing that He is good, that He is love, and that He is for me. Believing that He never changes, that He never fails, and that He is working all things for what is good.
Whatever it is you are struggling through right now, may this Thanksgiving be a reminder of God’s everlasting faithfulness for your life.
No matter what it is you are going through: He has brought you this far, and He won’t leave you now.
Whatever it is that is weighing on your heart and burdening your mind, be reminded that though you don’t understand the reason—there is a loving God that does, and He is walking by your side every step of the way. He will never leave you, and He never has.
His plans for your life may include weeping for a moment, but joy will always come in the morning.
No matter what it is that we’re going through, I believe with all of my heart that if we knew what God knows, we would want to be exactly in this time and exactly in this place. As hard as it may be, there is no better nor safer place to be than smack-dab in the middle of His good, pleasing, and perfect will. Because He knows best and there is no plan greater than His plan for our life.
His Plans, Not Ours
Life doesn’t always turn out how we expect it to, but it turns out just right. I look back at the struggles of my past in light of who I am today, and I see God’s hand and purposes every step of the way. He has brought us this far, and He won’t leave us now.
This is all part of a bigger picture—a picture far more beautiful, lovely, and perfect than we could ever begin to dream of.
This Thanksgiving, may you and I be challenged to trust God more, to believe Him better, and to know Him deeper. His heart is good, His love is pure, His plans are magnificent. Whether we feel it or not, it doesn’t cease to be true.
May you be challenged to be more than thankful this holiday season … as you lay down your pain and problems at His feet–and choose to trust Him again. Grace and peace to you, dear one, as you learn to rest in the arms of a loving God.
1 Thessalonians 5:18: Give Thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Jesus.
This piece originally appeared at TrueLoveDates.com and was republished with permission.
Debra is a Licensed Professional Counselor, relationship expert, speaker and author of several books, including True Love Dates. Debra is also the creator of the popular relationship advice blog TrueLoveDates.com, reaching millions of people with the message that healthy people make healthy relationships. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.