It’s Thanksgiving! I have thoughts and they’re going to be a little frazzled because I’m sporting a fever (not Covid-19, don’t worry! It’s ye olde November cold, just hitting me hard this year).
2020 has been a truly wild ride. From the Covid-19 panic to election stress to racial tensions to economic hardship, I think we’ve all been hit pretty hard by this bizarre year. Even those of us who have been feeling pretty happy are not immune to the air of sadness, stress, and fear that seeps through the fabrics of our masks and into the fabrics of our hearts. It’s a time rife with strife, so what is there to feel thankful about? It’s hard to feel thankful when the world is crashing down.
I am a big emotional girl. Very sensitive, I cry about everything. I feel everything very deeply. Too deeply, sometimes. I’ve been told I’m hypersensitive and overly dramatic. But despite being a catalyst for big feelings, I’ve come to this conclusion:
Thankfulness is not a feeling and gratitude must be actively learned.
We don’t learn gratitude by focusing on our circumstances or by the atmosphere of the world. We learn gratitude by looking to God and learning about His character.
I oftentimes think of the Psalmist David. The subheading in my Bible calls Psalm 31 a “Psalm of Complaint and of Praise.” David’s life was pretty grim. He was running away from King Saul, fleeing for his life and leaving behind loved ones. God’s promises that he was to rule Israel probably felt unattainable. How do you cling fast to God’s promises when everything around you is chaos? But this is what David writes:
“In You, O LORD, I have taken refuge; Let me never be ashamed; In Your righteousness deliver me. Incline Your ear to me, rescue me quickly; Be to me a rock of strength, A stronghold to save me. For You are my rock and my fortress; For Your name’s sake You will lead me and guide me.” Psalms 31:1-3
In the trials, David focuses on God instead of on his own strength and military prowess. God, our refuge. God, the giver of all good gifts. God, the God of mercy and lovingkindness. And David didn’t even have the full story yet! He expected and longed for the coming King, but we have experienced the great sacrifice of the Messiah! We have the promise of salvation. And this, my friends, means that we have every reason for thanksgiving in a world soaked with sin and chaos.
This year, I am thankful for many things. I mean, come on… I’m a newly wed. You had to know I was going to gush a little bit about my husband. He is the biggest blessing ever! I love him more than I’ve ever loved before. God is using him to teach me so much. Every day with him is a beautiful day. He is selfless, going above and beyond for everyone in his life. He is hilarious and gets my brand of humour, which is a very rare and attractive trait in a person. He loves so deeply and never fails to lift me up. He is the best, most hands-on dad I’ve seen since growing up with my own. I am so happy to be his wife and so proud of the godly leader he is. He is so Christlike and I’m going to spend my entire life trying to get on his level.
I am so thankful that I get the opportunity to be a stay at home mom with my two beautiful daughters! I’ve never been able to be a hands-on mom, I’ve always been working and struggling in survival mode. This year, I’m totally out of that season of grasping and I’ve entered living mode. I love being a mom. I love teaching my kids and learning with them through that teaching. I love being able to sing to them every night. I love watching them learn to pray, teaching them to sit in church, and reading the Bible to them daily. It is a privilege and job I do not take lightly.
I am thankful for my church. I have never been so surrounded by such a godly group of believers. Something about being a young church, a former church plant, makes my church a scrappy group of zealous soldiers, vehemently defending the Word of God and serving the community with love. I am so thankful for a pastor who serves diligently in spite of hardships like cancer and Covid. I am thankful for elders who love the sheep and seek to encourage them in godliness. I’m thankful that we have a worship team dedicated to singing songs that glorify God and espouses sound theology. God is continuing to do good works at Highlands Bible Church, even in the midst of 2020.
I am oddly thankful for Covid. No, I’m not thankful that it has broken lives or left us in a panic that harms our nation. But I am thankful that God has used this pandemic to teach me about His character. He is good all the time and His timing is the most ineffable, but wonderful thing ever. If not for Covid and God’s timing, I wouldn’t have married my husband in April. If not for Covid and God’s timing, I wouldn’t be homeschooling my daughters. If not for Covid and God’s timing, we wouldn’t be learning to be so engaged in church life. God uses the most bizarre circumstances to draw us to Him.
I am thankful that God is god and I am not. He holds the world in His hands and does goodness and justice in ways I cannot understand. If it was up to me, I would never have let Covid touch my friends, loved ones, country, or world. But it’s not up to me, thankfully. If it had been up to me, people would never have learned a new reliance on God. If it had been up to me, my 2020 would not have been as full of love.
I don’t know what the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021 will hold. But God does. He is wise and in control. Sickness, politics, and socioeconomic stress can’t dethrone Him. He is good and worthy of our thanksgiving. I pray that I’ll be able to enter the coming year with praise and gratitude for all He has done and will continue to do.