How Can I Live a Life of Thanksgiving When I’m Hurting Deeply?

Lately I’ve been watching fall football with my husband and no doubt around this time every year, commercials with luxurious cars driving through snowy mountains stir something inside me.

A little girl with bright big eyes peers out her window and sees all the twinkling lights. Santa is coming. Snow is falling. And she and her perfect family are savoring the season driving in the car of their dreams. I begin to feel like that little girl too.

A new Lexus sounds pretty good at the end of the year wrapped in a giant red bow. I may even feel like I “need” a new 2019 Range Rover fully loaded with leather seats and a sunroof that extends to the backseats.

Marketing geniuses know how to tap into our longings for “more.” They’ve done their homework. They give us all the “feels” and stir our senses for what’s beautiful, nostalgic, functional, and trendy making us think we’ll be happier.

We know the truth though. No material possession can fully satisfy our longings. In 2030, the 2019 cars will be old. There will always be newer, better, and more technologically advanced toys by then.

A Life of Thanks

As I think about gratitude this Thanksgiving (instead of Christmas and pretty cars!), I’m trying not to look so hard at what I don’t have and instead think deeply on all I’ve been given. Because this is the heart of God. This is what he desires for my life- to be content with what he’s already given me.

To live in such a way that my life spills over with Thanksgiving every day there’s breath in my lungs – not just on Thursday when we gather around the table with our loved ones.

But the truth is, it’s hard to give thanks when life hurts. In suffering, I can give thanks to you God? In loneliness I can thank you? In an unexpected diagnosis I can praise you? In conflict? Hurt and pain? When someone wounds me with their words? Even in confusion and times of chaos? Even when I believe something has been taken from me?

Take a look at what Jesus did in the Upper Room with his disciples:

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (Luke 22:26-28).

Accepting God’s Will

Jesus Messiah. God of the Universe- not far from being betrayed and murdered on the cross, gave thanks to his father in heaven. He knew the cup of God’s wrath would be poured out upon him and it would be a bitter one.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus would even fall with his face to the ground praying and asking God to take the cup from him (Luke 22:39). He knew the agony, excruciating pain, and torture he’d experience dying a criminal’s shameful and violent death, yet he humbly accepted God’s will as his son.

“Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

He knew the weight of the world’s sins would crush him, yet he chose to praise God. He knew the story wasn’t over- a greater purpose and plan was unfolding.

The Ultimate Sacrifice

And he didn’t just give thanks with his lips, he displayed it by giving up his life.

His body was broken for you… in thanksgiving.

His blood was shed for you… in thanksgiving.

And he did so willingly to save you. He took on the punishment that we deserved.

There’s no greater love than this.

He is our ultimate example of one who chose to thank God and accept his will in the midst of deep anguish and suffering. He knew the joy that was set before him- our precious gift of salvation that we could never earn on our own.

He knew it would get better and three days later he would rise, and the gravestone would be rolled away- conquering death once and for all. And because of his accomplished work on the cross, we can choose gratitude too.

Your Story Isn’t Over

No matter what you’re facing this Thanksgiving, you have great hope that these temporary trials and afflictions won’t last forever. And until you meet Jesus face to face and enter the gates of heaven, you can continually ask for his strength in your deepest pains and hurts.

Until that glorious day where he’ll make all things new with no more tears, death, suffering, or sin – you can thank him here and now and trust his love for you personally- proven to you on that costly, rugged, redeeming cross.

His death has brought you life. And what you see here and now isn’t the end of your story, either.

Blessings,

Samantha

Recommended resources: One Thousand Gifts book and devotional by author and farmer’s wife Ann Voskamp – www.onethousandgifts.com

 ** This article first appeared on TheCourage.com 

 

Samantha Krieger is a pastor’s wife and mom to 4. She is the author of  Quiet Time: A 30-day Devotional Retreat for Moms in the Trenches. She writes regularly for Kirk Cameron’s TheCourage.com, Her View From Home, and For the Family. You can connect with her on Instagram and Facebook.

 

 

 

 

 

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A Prayer for Thankfulness in Times of Pain

Father God,

We acknowledge that you are the giver of all good things. We live and breathe because of you. From your hands, You supply all that we need and so much more. But we confess that sometimes we are:

ungrateful…

unthankful…

selfish…

sinful…

hurting people…

I confess that at times I don’t see all the gifts you have given, are giving, and continue to give in my life. I confess that my ungratefulness at times has left me angry, bitter, and wanting. My unthankfulness has made me blind to all that I have. And even as I approach this Thanksgiving, I know my heart needs radical change.

Some of us are unthankful because we’ve experienced a great amount of pain and suffering this year. We’ve lost loved ones and unborn children. Our marriages and relationships are broken. We’re dealing with sickness, injustice, and depression. We’re struggling financially and need a miracle. Circumstances don’t seem to be in our favor. Ever. Some of us wonder why in the world you work the way that you do.

I confess that at times I have caused my own pain and have projected that hurt onto other people.

God, help us to lean into your grace when we’re weak and feel like giving up. Because Lord we are so frail apart from you. Help us to give you thanks because when we choose not to we know that our wounds and pain only grow deeper.

Will you teach us and show us that you are good regardless of the pain and hurt we may feel in this life? You are worthy to be praised in the valley and on the mountaintop. Remind us that you still:

turn ashes into beauty.

instill life into dead bones.

give the oil of joy for mourning.

soften the hardest of hearts.

change sinners into saints.

transform brokenness into wholeness.

wash our sins and make them white as snow.

redeem and restore the years the enemy has stolen.

And let us remember that you have already endured the ultimate shame and suffering on the cross for your glory and our good. Help us to persevere to the end until we see you face to face.

In the meantime, may today, this week and all of November give us a renewed sense of genuine Thanksgiving in each of our hearts regardless of our circumstances. We love you.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen

Choosing Gratitude

This week- just a day before Thanksgiving- I’ve been reminded of how ungrateful I am over so many things. It’s such a crazy thing because I’d normally consider myself a thankful person but I’ve been taking a good look into my heart and I’ve found some ugly parts that aren’t so beautiful.

Like being ungrateful that:

  • we live in a tiny apartment with no space for anything
  • I can’t fit into any jeans because I’m in the awkward stage of post pregnancy
  • we are always paying bills and can’t seem to build our savings account how we want
  • the weather is 80 degrees in late November
  • I rarely have time for “me” because my toddler needs constant attention

Instead of being grateful that:

  • we have a warm bed to sleep in, a roof over our head, and seminary life is for a season
  • I just gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby girl
  • God has given us the ability to make money and our needs are met above and beyond
  • It’s not so cold that you can’t go outside
  • I’m investing into the life of my child so he can make a difference in the world one day

It’s hard to be thankful when things aren’t always the way I hope they’d be. But supernaturally, God is able to help me choose gratitude and give me real joy– every day- not just when I’m gathered around the table for turkey once a year.

And that is what’s beautiful!

Be joyful always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thes. 5:16-18

Being on Mission in Holiday Madness

While at Whole Foods the other day, I had to overcome some fears and I had to do it quickly.

As my cashier Jaime was loading my groceries into the bag, I asked him how the crowds had been with the Thanksgiving rush… He said they weren’t too bad.

I told him I shop at Whole Foods on special occasions. My husband was in seminary and our budget was tight.

“What’s seminary?” he asked.

Trying to think of a simple answer to what seemed like a complicated question, I said:

“Well, it’s a school where you learn more about the Bible and eventually become a pastor or something like that. My husband wants to help teach others the Bible… It’s a non-denominational, Christian, evangelical school.”

“Oh okay,” he replied.

I could tell the people behind me were anxious to get their groceries on the belt, but I had another question for him and those people were annoying me so I just blurted out:

“Do you have a church background at all?” I said extremely fast.

“What was that?” he asked.

“Did you grow up in the church at all?”

“Well, my family is Roman Catholic and I grew up in that but I’m not into the whole ceremonial stuff. You know…”

“Yeah I understand… Well, the church my husband and I go to is more about a relationship with God than it is about religion. It’s laid back and it really doesn’t look like a church at all. You wouldn’t think it was one.”

“Where’s it located?”

“It’s a big building off 635 and 75. We’re still in the building phase actually.”

He said he thought he’d seen it before from the interstate.

“I think you’d really like it!” I added.

He stopped and looked at me.

“Well I’ll promise you this- I’ll go and check it out sometime.”

I was shocked. Really? You would? I thought.

I smiled, said that would be awesome, and wished him a great Thanksgiving.

As I left that day, I was ecstatic that God used that 2 minute window for me to talk to Jaime. I often get this knot in my stomach before starting up a spiritual conversation. Even though Jesus is the most important person in my life who I want to proclaim to the world every day that I live, I still have fears. I still struggle with getting past “me” and other insecurities.

But I’m learning that the greatest way to overcome that fear is to dive in wholeheartedly, no matter the risk.

To lovingly engage people in conversation.

To live on mission.

To get past the distractions so that God can receive glory, even during the holiday madness.

I pray that Jaime will remember our talk and check out Watermark so he can learn what it means to have a relationship with God.

I hope you’ll pray with me too. In the mean time, I’ll be checking up on him the next time I need a treat!

Being Thankful = Remembering

A few months ago, Jeremiah and I drove to Half Price books to purchase a very special book for our family. He’d been talking about getting a “Blessing Book” for a long time. So for $4.99, he picked out a brown and orange vintage floral journal.

We decided that we needed to start recording God’s faithfulness and his answers to our prayers over the years and that the Blessing Book would be the official landing place to write out those things simply because…

It’s easy to forget God’s work in the every day details of our lives.

Since then, we’ve recorded a lot of answers to prayers and twice now, we’ve gone through it so we can Remember.

Remembering God’s faithfulness and provision in the past has given me an overwhelming joy, thankfulness, and gratitude. It gives me great hope to face the uncertainties in the future.

There are all kinds of ways to reflect and remember. I stumbled upon Megan’s blog the other day and she’s created a Thankfulness Banner. I absolutely love this idea- especially as it really helps your kids tangibly see God’s goodness in their life.

One Thanksgiving when I was home from college, I printed out each of my family members’ names in big, bold writing on separate pieces of paper. All of us wrote a brief note saying how thankful we were for that person. It was a bonding time for our family and provided a ton of affirmation.

Well, I can’t wait when John can understand what our Blessing Book is all about so that he can share in what God has done and is doing in our family.

How do you remember God’s faithfulness and blessings during this time of year?

November Rain

rain.jpg

Swirls of gray and white colored the sky this weekend. Thanksgiving in Dallas was introduced this year with rain, sleet, and more rain. “Why does it have to be raining?” I asked my husband. My attitude before church wasn’t particularly a pleasant one. The weather was ruining my mood. I knew, however, that this shouldn’t be the case. Besides, it was Thanksgiving weekend- a time to give thanks.

The rain continued to patter on the church roof as I sat warm and cozy in my chair beside my husband. The message was on thankfulness. God used my pastor in a way that deeply touched the newfound bitter corners in my heart. He revealed that when we choose to have ungrateful hearts, we easily become bitter, and more vulnerable to sin which can then snowball into countless other problems. Oh but it’s no big deal to complain about this or that, is often a response I have. The truth is that I’m called to give thanks in all things even when things aren’t good or going my way. It’s my attitude and heart that matters.

To Give Thanks… To give thanks when we have to park far away from Nordstrom or Best Buy; disabled people would give anything to park far away and be able to walk. To give thanks when the alarm beeps in the morning startling us out of bed; it’s another day that we’re alive. To give thanks, frankly, when we don’t feel like it. Feelings come and go. There’s so much to be thankful for even just as Americans and we don’t even know it. 

On the way home, I didn’t even notice the windshield wipers were on. I laughed and joked with my husband. I prayed that God would give me those nudges each day to remind me of His goodness.

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