Giving Thanks…in All Circumstances
Grief presents a great challenge during the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Big losses may take years to work through the cycle of grief or loss—especially the loss of child.
Two women close to me, lost their young sons to terminal illnesses. One boy lost a year-long battle with cancer at the age of 4 ½ and the other died suddenly as the result of a fever at 19 months old. In the midst of their grief, these mothers gained wisdom and graciously shared two golden nuggets with others:
Be thankful and don’t take small things for granted. See God’s blessings in the details and in unexpected ways.
Draw strength from social and spiritual support. Never go it alone. Stay close to one another and to our one sure thing—a God who loves and provides for us.
Speaking from my own experience, at the gravesite following the funeral of a young cousin, the most profound and yet somehow painfully comforting moment came at the close of the ceremony with the Christian classic, the Doxology.
Praise God from Whom all blessings flow.
Praise Him all creatures here below.
Praise Him above ye heavenly host.
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.
In Matthew 5, Jesus states, “Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.” in the biblical text, “comforted” also means “fortified.” Could it be that through our mourning and grief God promises to rebuild and fortify us? Reflect on that for a moment. Fortified. Does this mean that as we work through out grief, we may become stronger? In my experience, working through my own grief and walking alongside so many people dealing with intense grief, the answer is YES.
Is the process enjoyable? Not really – though there are moments of joy to be shared as you grieve with God and others… it can be heart wrenching. But we can often get to a place of thanksgiving IN the loss. We can see that silver lining, especially if we step back and look at the loss and beyond the loss itself and gaze into what “new” thing may be happening.
I like to think of grief as our pruning process. When we grieve it is a lot like pruning. While it can be painful and something is lost, pruning makes room for new growth and produces wisdom. Take comfort. God, our Master Gardener, is pruning us to produce something more… something new.
Have you experienced loss? Of course you have.
How? Take time to reflect on why that loss was so difficult. Validate the loss, but don’t allow yourself to get stuck in self-pity, shame or despair. Give thanks for lessons learned through loss in your life. Take 10 minutes to acknowledge two or three major losses that you would never have asked for, but that in hindsight have taught you valuable lessons.
As you think ahead to this Thanksgiving, what words of wisdom do you want to hold on to? Consider sharing some of these with your loved ones this season. Conversations like this may make for a very rich Thanksgiving indeed.
Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances… for this is your spiritual act of worship.