Life felt entirely unfair. I had prayed and believed for health, and I’d stumbled into a stretch of sickness that was more intense than anything I’d ever known. Aside from a short half-hour in the mornings, I was forced to lie completely motionless and drown in my haze of illness.
Away from Your Family at Thanksgiving
After a month on the couch, I had hopes to join my family for Thanksgiving. I had hopes this would be the night when I finally slipped into actual clothes, hopped in the car, and managed to stay up past 7 p.m.
When it didn’t play out that way, I gazed outside at the oak leaves from my spot on the couch. A sharp pang of sadness thrummed in cadence with my heartbeat.
Most of me wanted to say, Really, God? I asked and believed and hoped and prayed, and you’re really going to ask me to walk through this season of suffering anyway?
I knew the right answers: Suffering produces perseverance, character, and hope. Trials shape us to maturity – completion. Refining fires burn off what we don’t need to be carrying. The Potter holds us like clay and shapes us to the image he desires.
I Never Asked for the Refining Fire
While these truths all sounded spiritual and contemplative, no part of me wanted to walk through that trial. I didn’t care all that much about perseverance, character, hope, or maturity. I just wanted out of that low place, and I wanted my life back.
Maybe you’re in the low place this Thanksgiving. Perhaps all the reminders about giving thanks always, making gratitude lists, and holding onto hope feel trite. You wonder if these words were penned by people who have never lived through real grief, loneliness, pain, or tragedy.
Your eyes gaze into this year’s Thanksgiving celebration, and it feels like anything but a celebration.
You feel alone.
Layers of grief pile upon you like a wet wool blanket.
You’re trying to figure out how to cook the turkey yourself this year. On some level, you just want to throw in the towel, order pizza, and pretend this is not your actual life.
Thanksgiving Inspiration for Your Hurting Heart
My difficult Thanksgiving wasn’t birthed from the deepest grief I’ve ever experienced, but there’s really no way of measuring a person’s pain without sitting an hour on her sickbed. I knew pain that year. I knew loneliness. And in the dark moments on that couch, I tasted despair.
The evening news blared into the darkness like a reminder that life was still happening in the world that had become so foreign to me. Slowly, I scraped myself off the couch for the ten minutes required to stir dehydrated potato flakes and seasoned stuffing crumbs into their perspective pots on the stove-top: my own Thanksgiving feast.
I mixed the pathetic meal with wooden spoons and scooped it onto a plate, calming my tumultuous stomach with soda crackers all the while. I returned to the couch with my food, turned off the news, and sat in the silence with the most pitiable Thanksgiving dinner of my life.
When You Can’t Find Gifts to Count
It seemed fitting to think of some sort of Scripture to console my lonely heart, and while a few verses came to mind, none really stuck to my heart.
I tried to count a few gifts, but those thoughts only brought tears to my eyes as I sat alone in the silence.
I attempted to conjure up some melody to push back the early evening darkness that was permeating my soul, but nothing came.
Thanksgiving Inspiration for Your Suffering
What do you do when all you know to do no longer works – when you find yourself alone with your thoughts and your discouragement and not even the tiniest ray of light shining into your pit?
I remembered the words a speaker at our church once shared: When you don’t know what to say, call his name.And I whispered that name in the darkness with my lumpy fake potatoes and stuffing. I whispered, Jesus.
There are times when nothing short of an encounter with Jesus can lift a weary head. And while we might encounter him when we turn to his Word, count gifts, or lift a melody, when the darkness is too dark – when our hearts get lost – he waits for the simple call of his name.
One Word Can Change Everything. . .
There on the couch, I didn’t see Jesus show up with my meager meal. I didn’t feel any wave of majesty, and my nausea didn’t lift. But a tiny ray of light sparked in my soul, and I knew his promise to be true: Call to me and I will answer you.
I knew I wasn’t alone with my pain.
I remembered the reality that Jesus bore more suffering on the cross than I could ever begin to fathom.
His presence was there with me. And he knew all about my pain. Felt it with me. Counted my tears.
And the most interesting thing happened.
From out of the midnight black sky, the tears that welled over my lumpy meal dried up, and I laughed. I laughed, and I could not explain it or account for the shift of heart.
Eternal truth filled my heart: there will come a day when every tear is wiped dry.
I knew – not just in my mind, but in my heart – that I wasn’t alone with my meal.
I knew my pain would all be used for good. In the darkest moments of the journey, he was gently sifting the wheat from the chaff in my life. He was answering my prayers about surrendering control, living presently, and giving thanks.
Keep Eternity in Mind when You Need Thanksgiving Inspiration
I also knew my hard season wasn’t a forever-season. And mostly, I knew that I was preciously loved by the One who sat with me on that couch and smiled over my sacrifice.
And when you know you’re relentlessly loved in your suffering, when you let the One who promises to carry you reach down and touch your heart, there’s hardly room to stay offended. There’s hardly room to talk about who’s holding up their end of the deal. There is only precious space – holy ground.
Friend, are you struggling this Thanksgiving? Do you need a fresh breath of Thanksgiving inspiration as you prepare your meal alone this year? Is your heart grieving a very deep loss?
Your loss might be much deeper than a year of illness. You might be weeping over the very real loss of a precious loved one. The gratitude lists and catchy ideas aren’t holding much weight in your dark place.
Will pause right now and whisper just one Word? Will you say the Name and trust him to show up, despite what you feel or don’t feel? He is waiting – a breath away.
You likely won’t find answers to your hardest questions right here in this moment.
The grief won’t disappear.
But let his gentle breath remind you of this: Your hope is not found in improved circumstances; lasting hope is in the One who is right here with you – holding you through the hardest season of your life.
Your hope is not found in improved circumstances; lasting hope is in the One who is right here with you – holding you through the hardest season of your life.
Written by Stacey Pardoe
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Stacey Pardoe