What if Thanksgiving occurs during hard times?
Usually I like to post a warm and fuzzy post for Thanksgiving week about gratitude, but not this year. Families and friends are gathered around good food all across our nation this week in hopes of enjoying themselves. But so often we don’t enjoy ourselves. Being with family can be hard, and for so many, being with family is not possible this year.
And Thanksgiving is going to hurt.
For whatever reason, I am surrounded by people who are suffering this holiday season and am reminded that circumstances do not always line up with the celebration calendar.
I hope to post some encouragement for those who are suffering this week.
As perfect timing would have it, I listened to a PODCAST with Katherine Wolf, who suffered from a massive brain stem stroke in 2008. She and her husband, Jay, have since founded Hope Heals. Her views on suffering take me aback. Here are some excerpts from Katherine’s talk as she spoke from a stage while seated in a wheelchair, wearing a heating pad on her back because of excruciating pain, and healing from a bruised leg and elbow caused by a recent fall. Others would have cancelled, but what I love about Katherine is that she keeps showing up. May we all do the same.
I couldn’t get her message out of my mind, so I re-listened and typed out key excerpts to share with all of you. Maybe you too will allow her to tutor you through hard times in life. She is a worthy teacher.
1. God is not withholding any good thing from you.
Katherine addressed Psalm 84:11 in light of hard times: No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. She quoted Sir Richard Baker, a theologian from the 1600’s: The chiefly good things in life, are not things. They are peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Spirit, fruition of His presence in this life and the assurance of His face in the next. Of these things chiefly, He will never withhold from those who walk uprightly with Him.
And then she wrapped up her comments by saying this:
No matter how bad things are in your story…physically, medically, in relationships, in your finances, whatever, He has not withheld the truly good things from you. That is truth. You have got access to everything you need to get through the very worst things because the good things aren’t things at all.
2. We can decide ahead of time how we will respond.
Habakkuk 3:17-18 says, 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.
Katherine wrote a customized version of these verses in May 2009, the year after her stroke when she was still really bad off: Though I cannot walk and I am confined to a wheelchair, though my face is paralyzed and I cannot smile, though I am extremely impaired and cannot take care of my own baby boy, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will be joyful in God my Savior.
How do you need to re-write Habakkuk 3:17-18 going into this Thanksgiving week?
3. We can suffer strong.
Katherine heard recently from a missionary friend that the American church is the only place in the world where small groups gather and pray for healing the minute they get a diagnosis for anything. Do you know how the rest of the world prays?
Lord, help me to cling to Christ. Help me to honor you as I suffer well.
Katherine challenges us to “suffer strong.” She says life’s going to be hard, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be so, so good. She sees the constraints caused by our suffering as God saying, You can thrive and you can flourish within this little space I’ve given you. She cites Psalm 16:6 that says our boundary lines have fallen in “pleasant” places!
Have hope, everyone.
Picture Explanation: Last year we traveled to feast at Thanksgiving with our daughter’s family and grandchildren. This year they come to us! I can’t wait to embrace these two beautiful grandchildren very soon! The featured image of the acorns in small hands that I use to identify my blog is a picture of my granddaughter’s hands taken in our back yard many Thanksgivings ago!
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