The holiday season always floods me with memories, and a renewed awareness of how the past resonates in my current reality. As kids, my brother and I were pretty snarky to each other. (I say “as kids” in a thinly veiled attempt to hogwash you into believing that we behave like grownups now!) Despite being fiercely loyal and even helpful to one another, if he handed me the salt shaker, I’d say, “I don’t thank you!” to which he’d cheerfully respond, “You’re not welcome!”
I laugh about it now – that is, now that we’ve learned to properly use our Magic Words and say “thank you” like normal people. But over the past twelve months, I’ve received a lot of things directly from the hand of God – and came very close to shooting back a snarky “I don’t thank You!”
It’s easy to thank God for family and health and good food and a great country. We are absolute pros at coming up with our “30 Days of Thanks” lists and rattling off all the ways He’s improved our lives. We can even hold our heads high and thank Him for bringing us through the hard times. And He does deserve thanks for all of this.
But this year, there’s a bit of a cloud hanging over the holidays for some of us. We want desperately to count blessings, it’s not that we’re ungrateful. But the enormity of loss or pain is an elephant in the room; from some vantage points, it’s so big and unmoving that you stop noticing it sometimes, but it still makes it near impossible to navigate from the kitchen to the couch. It rides in the car with me. It goes shopping with me. It sits beside me in church. And when I finally realize just how much room in my life it takes up, it’s overwhelming. And frankly, I don’t thank Him for it.
So today, I want to edit that line. Today, when I can’t recall the blessings without recalling the tears, I want to say… “I don’t thank You enough.”
I don’t thank You enough – for the worry, the frustration, the anger. Without them, I have no reason to remember that You are in control, no reason to run into Your presence for comfort.
I don’t thank You enough – for the sleepless nights and the endless days. Those were the nights I communed with You, and the weariness that You used to show me how much meal really was in the bottom of the barrel.
I don’t thank You enough – for the sorrow. What we call emotion is just a flavor of the real thing – only God has experienced emotion at full strength, which is why He can say in all truth and sympathy that Jesus is a Man of sorrows, acquainted – what an understatement! – with grief. He is not too “emotionally mature” to care about my feelings – He is longing for me to enter into His.
I don’t thank You enough – for Your perfect will. “At midnight I will rise to give thanks unto thee because of thy righteous judgments.” (Psalm 119:62) None of this has to make any sense to me. You are not obligated to enlighten me. But as I walk with Thee, I can be fully persuaded that You love me (Romans 8:38-39), that You are in absolute control (Ecclesiastes 3:11), and that this is just part of a bigger picture that I can’t see yet (Romans 8:28)
I don’t thank You enough – for giving me this experience in my twenties instead of much later in life. By “starting young”, I have learned early to seek You – and I didn’t have to wait til I was middle aged to experience Your compassion and grace. (Lamentations 3:18-32)
This probably doesn’t resonate much with some of you this Thanksgiving; this may have been a year filled with joy and victories. And I rejoice with you. But for those passing Thanksgiving with as many tears as blessings, I want you to know that I’m praying for you as I write this, that He is always, only good, that He is still worth trusting with this big picture we may never be able to see. Hang in there, “having done all, to stand”.
“I had fainted, unless I believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.” (Psalm 27:13-14)