A Thanksgiving Confession: When Brokenness & Unspeakable Joy Coexist

Can I be completely honest for a minute? Thanksgiving is a hard one for me. On one hand, death and broken relationships have stolen from my babies what are some of the most cherished parts of my own childhood and my tradition-loving heart aches for what they’ll never know. On the other hand, I am unspeakably grateful for the new traditions we’re building with them and for the relationships I’ve seen restored.

Jesus has been speaking and stirring gently in my heart this year that brokenness and unspeakable joy can coexist.

It’s okay to hurt for what should have been or what could have been or what used to be. It’s okay to think of the Thanksgiving from my childhood spent running around my great aunt’s farm with my cousins and chopping slaw with my grandma and picking out our Christmas tree in my great uncle’s tree patch and both mourn the loss of those times and joyfully remember those memories that truly shaped my life.

The question then becomes, what do I do with these conflicted emotions? And, I share all this because I know that I’m not the only one who struggles with this.

What I’m learning – and trust me, Jesus is still doing a big work in my heart here – is that you have to:

  • embrace the season you’re in now
  • be thankful for the sweet seasons that have passed
  • learn from the hard seasons
  • look forward to the seasons that will come, because change is inevitable

Romans 8:18 promises us that joy is coming. And it is. What’s broken now may be restored, and we hold on to that hope because we serve a God of restoration. But we also have to remember that there’s a time for everything and His perfect plan and purpose will prevail.

I’ve spent a lot of time with this tear-stained passage in my Bible (Ecclesiastes 3:1-11):

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

What do workers gain from their toil?I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race.He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

I don’t have all the answers, but I encourage you today friends, if you too feel the game of tug-of-war in your heart between complete gratitude and deep sorrow, let’s choose joy today. The One who holds your heart cares about every detail and is working on your behalf in ways that you can’t even yet comprehend.

Happy Thanksgiving, from my family to yours!

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