Posts tagged grief at thanksgiving
Years Later, Most Thankful for Jesus

At your home, perhaps turkey, stuffing, and football will be the same as ever—but not all is the same for you as it used to be. Family gatherings are missing your child—and perhaps, like me, they have been for some years now. Your Thanksgivings have gone through many changes.

I hope that you know the comfort of Christ’s gospel in your pain—that the good news of His sacrifice on the cross for sins means you can believe and have the assurance of heavenly glory that far surpasses this earth. How good and wonderful it is to reflect upon all Christ has done for His people—winning an eternal victory over sin and death, winning us as believers to Himself so that we become family with Him! I am grateful for this, and more, that the Lord has done.

As you have your meal tomorrow and miss your child, the ache in your soul of loss means that you miss not only what your child has done for you—like, making you a mother (for the first time, or again) and giving you joy. You hurt because you miss the person, your child.

That reality is comforting in how it validates our experiences of grief over real people hardly known on this earth, and also helpful for how this truth can point to God. It’s worth think over—loving God also involves not only being grateful for what He has done, but also for who He is.

God of My Story

When John the Baptist was preparing the way for Jesus, he said, “He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry” (Matt. 3:11).

Is my heart ready to exult that I am not the mighty one—but He is? And does it quickly proclaim that I am not remotely worthy of Him—but He is worthy to be worshiped forever? Am I set on sharing my own faithfulness—or am I sharing my life as a testimony to Himthat others might know and praise Him more?

A heart ready to make much of Jesus, to be thankful for Him most, is just as ready to make little of self. He is God of my story, and the purpose of it. Thank You, Jesus, for being a God worthy of owning my unfolding days.

God of My Time

When Jesus spoke to Peter and Andrew—they immediately followed Him. The same happened with James and John. They stopped what they were doing to go after Him (see Matthew 4:18-22).

Is my heart ready to say that Christ is worthy of immediate trust and obedience? Do I confess that there is urgency to following the Lord, even if I have not always responded with it? Do I seek to decide, of myself, what is most important to fill my time, or am I giving of my time to Him?

A heart ready to make much of Jesus offers all activities, roles, and jobs into His hands, wanting time on earth to be used to praise Him however He chooses. He is God of my time, and the purpose of how it is used. Thank You, Jesus, for being a God worthy of owning every minute.

God of My Living

When someone approached Jesus, saying before following him, “Lord let me first go and bury my father” (Matt. 8:21), Jesus denied the request. Just prior, the gospel writer, Matthew, records Jesus as saying, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Matt. 8:20). Jesus teaches that the arrangements of this life are not the most important—Jesus did not come to build Himself a marvelous home situation here. He didpromise to build an eternal Church, rescued out ofthis world (see Matt. 16:18; Matt. 12:48-50).

Is my heart ready to say that nothing of this life needs to be settled, resolved, enjoyed, or experienced prior to following Jesus? Is there any one thing I want to know or do before casting myself upon His will alone, or am I all His—right now?

A heart ready to make much of Jesus makes arrangements with Him first and does His eternal will as the first priority—leaving arrangements, including those involving homes and families, to His sovereign choice. Thank You, Jesus, for being a God worthy of being followed ahead of the plans of this life.

There is so much I do not yet understand about Him, and about how to follow Him as God. But I am grateful that He is God, that He is now and will forever be—and this will never change. He will never change. I am in awe. How did I get to know and follow this marvelous, awesome, great One?

When you miss the person you do not have right now, rest in this infinite Person who has the whole world in His hands. Thank You, Lord, for being worthy.

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When Your Thanksgiving Is without Thanksgiving

The book of Psalms bears a title that means, “praise.” Yet, Psalm 88 does not follow the typical pattern of concluding with or moving toward praise. This rare psalm is in a context, within the psalter, of many words of thanks and praise to God, seemingly indicating that refraining from a conclusion of praise is not a posture to maintain, no matter the circumstance (see also 1 Thess. 5:18). But in the Scriptures, we do have these words as a part of the song book of the Israelites. They would sing these words to the Lord from beginning to end, and they would conclude the song without turning to thanksgiving at that moment.

Perhaps today on Thanksgiving, these are actually some of the most encouraging words you can hear. You can give the groans of your heart to the Lord. And if your expressions to God does not end in praise, then you can know that you are in the company of the inspired writer of God-breathed Scripture who wrote Psalm 88.

Maybe you know and acknowledge that there are indeed many reasons to praise the Lord—just as this psalmist indicated the truth that God is his salvation (v. 1). But today, your “companions are darkness” (v. 18b). You feel like Job who made his bed darkness and called the pit his companion, as near as a family member (Job. 17:13-14).

Faith is evident when your downcast expressions are taken to the Lord because you know He is the only King of the ages who still reigns during all of life’s circumstances. Take your feelings of hopelessness, and bring them before Him. Maybe your prayer would be something like this:

“My God—the only possible Savior for this world—I cry to You. I am here before You; please hear me. I need You so very desperately.

I feel as good as dead; my soul is heavier than it has ever been, and I have no strength. Not only do I feel dead, it feels as thought You have stopped extending Your goodness to me; I feel cut off from even You.

You take no enjoyment that death and sorrows ravage the souls of people made in Your image; You take no delight that Adam and Eve sinned in the garden [original sin] and pain was brought upon the whole world. I also know that You are righteous to punish sin—You are righteous to give consequences for original sin in this world. But, oh, it is heavy to be on an earth where these just consequences of sin are felt. Oh Lord, this overwhelms me inexpressibly.

In this suffering, it feels like no one enters near; no one around me can understand. Because of that, it feels like a trap. Because of Your just judgment of original sin in this world—and without being the Author of the evil that caused such sorrow—You have sovereignly placed me here, and it feels confining.

Every day, I cry out to You, Lord. But it feels pointless to even cry out. Of what use am I to You here in such suffering? I feel like my soul has abandoned my body, and like I am unable to utter any words that are of help or service to You. But if I actually die from this sorrow—and sometimes it has felt like I could—I will be of no more use to You in this world. And I want You to use me for Your glory while You appoint me to be here; make it so that You can use me even though I feel purposeless.

Lord, I stillcry out to You; I affirm that it is to You alone I can truly cry for understanding. Why, within Your sovereign control, do I have circumstances that only make me feel cast away from You? I know I don’t understand. Others do not understand either. Most people who look at my circumstances would assume that You have rejected me.

My impossible-feeling sorrow clouds Your face from me. It is as thought I cannot see You and Your goodness and glory like I used to. The righteous judgment You have brought upon this world for original sin, makes my friends feel far away. And my soul is cast away from the experience of Your goodness I so desire. My soul is in darkness today, oh Lord; You know this. You know all things. And I humbly place myself before You today.”

Lament keeps us communion with our God, who is our only hope, our salvation. Our honest and humble prayers prepare the way for the deeper assimilation of truth in our souls; for through lament we acknowledge before God our points of greatest weight and need, asking for His aid in a way that inherently agrees with Him that our personal feelings cannot deliver us.

Today, you are likely here reading these words because your Thanksgiving is without thanksgiving. Your thanksgiving is full of lament, and you cannot seem to find the way to praise. Here is the step forward I see in Psalm 88: Affirm that the Lord alone is your Savior by acting upon that truth in faith—through lamenting your pain, with an open Bible, directly and revealingly to Him.

And then, out of that, do not close the door on starting to develop another prayer that sounds like Psalm 89.

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