My heart has been heavy approaching this day of Thanksgiving. I’m thinking of the mother facing the holidays for the first time after the tragic loss of her daughter; the family who lost their baby this week; the daughter whose holiday gatherings have been years without her mother and just recently will now be without her father; the wife waking up for her first holiday morning without her husband of over twenty-five years; the woman who lost the anticipation and excitement of her baby’s first Thanksgiving in a miscarriage; a family welcoming a precious new healthy baby but losing the young, beautiful first-time mother. One can’t help but grieve with these who are hurting.
Grief has been known in my family. We’re familiar with the breath it takes out of you, the way it changes you, how it can overwhelm you and make your body feel physically ill. And we know that it never completely goes away. Every birthday, date of death, every milestone moment, and yes, this time of year, each holiday celebrated accompanied with traces of grief.
Someone is missing. How unnatural it feels to keep living life when life no longer feels like the life we knew. How bewildering it is seeing people go about their daily business, not even aware that someone so special, and so significant, is no longer on this earth. How empty it feels sitting down to a table with all our family, except our loved one lost.
After loss, I picture grief taking up a large part of our heart. Through healing, the element of grief becomes smaller and smaller, yet remains. Why?
The Lord uses the sorrow in my heart to believe for His healing, His joy, and His peace for others. These losses grieve me so deeply because I know how I’ve grieved for those I’ve lost. It’s so painful. It hurts. It’s dark. However, my losses fuel my intercession for others who mourn. Romans 12:15 ESV says it’s one of the marks of a true Christian, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”
How has my family been able to be thankful in, through and after tragedy?
It’s difficult to praise God when so much is wrong. It’s a challenge to worship with a heavy hurting heart. However, praise, worship and thanksgiving are vital to healing.
Think about Paul and Silas sitting in prison. What did they do? They began to sing. Sorrow can feel like a prison. The release comes through the worship. Worship shakes the foundation to our grief, doors are swung open and bonds are unfastened. (See Acts 16:25-26).
Worshipping the Lord in our grief is a sacrifice. God honors the sacrifice of worship. Worshipping not because we feel like it, but worshipping because He is worthy. I remember being in church two days after my Dad’s funeral. Imagining his casket at the front of the sanctuary was hindering my worship. I was so grieved. But then we began to sing “Blessed Be Your Name.” Yes, there was pain in the offering, but that is authentic worship. Hebrews 13:15 ESV “Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name.”
The act of sacrificing thank offerings to God—even for the bread and cup of cost, for cancer and crucifixion –this prepares the way for God to show us His fullest salvation from bitter, angry, resentful lives and from all sin that estranges us from Him. – One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp
Thankfulness doesn’t negate our grief. Thankfulness brings joy in the grief. How? Thankfulness brings us closer to God and as we are closer to Him we receive of His glorious riches. His light, His love, His joy, His peace. This isn’t denial. This isn’t fairytale, make-believe. This isn’t lying to ourselves. This is walking, not in the natural tendency of our nature, but in His supernatural power to transform our hearts in His presence. Habakkuk 3:17-18 ““Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”
Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn’t rescue the suffering. The converse does. The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring fullest of Light to all the world. When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, life grows. – One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp
I pray for you, sweet readers to be the “change agents.” Our place is not in this world. Our place is destined to be with the Father. In the imperfections of this life we live, I pray for your heart of Thanksgiving to transcend every trial, displaying the light of His glory through your joy.
Visit the link for the song: Blessed Be Your Name by Matt Redman http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tTpTQ4kBLxA
*If you are waking this day with pain and loss, I invite you to read this touching post my friend shared. https://abedformyheart.com/grateful-and-grieving/ *
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