An aftershock of grief hit me with full force last Thanksgiving. Preparing to go to my parents’ house for a family meal, I found myself in my bedroom unable to hold back tears and the accompanying flood of emotions. What could I be thankful for this year?
Before eating turkey and pumpkin pie, our family tradition is to go around the table and say what we’re thankful for. Some years, this is easy. I’m grateful for God’s provision of my husband’s job or a new home.
But all I could see that afternoon was the baby I wasn’t holding and I didn’t know how to give thanks after a painful miscarriage.
The trauma surrounding my delivery the previous April haunted me—the ambulance ride, losing consciousness along with too much blood on the ER table, and my tanking numbers on the monitor. My body was still recovering in June and it wasn’t until the end of the summer that I’d been able to begin the process of emotionally grieving our loss. When I reached my due date in October, I was a mess but I took time to pray, ask questions, and truly cry.
Now, the fourth Thursday in November, a new wave of grief swelled unexpectedly high and knocked me over. I couldn’t hide my swollen eyelids with makeup (I’m allergic anyway) and I’ve never been good at pretending everything’s OK when it’s not.
My husband carried sweet potato casserole to the car and we drove a mere 10 minutes to gather with siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins. He kept a protective eye on me as we greeted everyone, but when it was time to give thanks at the table it was all I could do to keep from unraveling.
When it was my turn to share I said, “I’m thankful for my husband.”
He prayed with me the afternoon the pregnancy test was positive and he rejoiced with me over one of the biggest surprises of our marriage. He saw the ultrasound that revealed the unbearable truth. He held my hand when I lay unmoving on that hospital bed. He walked me to the restroom to make sure I didn’t fall over the day after my miscarriage, and he drove me home from the hospital.
He listened, consoled, and carried my broken heart those following months. He told me it wasn’t my fault when that persuasive lie kept invading my thoughts. And he patiently waited for my body and heart to heal.
As hard as it was to speak words of thanks and as hard as it was to see past my grief, God helped me to see mercy in the midst of my pain in the form of my husband sitting next to me at that table. At the necessary moment, there was a way to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Real life is hard and holidays can be hardest. Grief and tears and weeping and mourning don’t respect a calendar. They pay no attention to our schedule or plans. They love to keep us in suspense and surprise us.
The people around our table change, too—some leave us through death or broken marriages, and some are added.
Life happens—basements flood, we’re unemployed, or a loved one’s diagnosed with cancer. In those times, what can we be thankful for?
“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever” (Psalm 136:1).
We give thanks because God is good and promises to work all things for the good of those who love him. We give thanks because our pain—though intense and overwhelming—will one day fade but God’s steadfast love “endures forever”. And we ask God to open our eyes to see how he’s being good and loving to us in the midst of our sadness.
We’re sorrowful yet always rejoicing.
We trust through our trials.
Whether we’re happy or not . . . we give thanks.
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