The season of Thanksgiving is a wonderful opportunity to pause from everyday life, reflect, and list the plentiful things for which we are thankful. Many of us can easily fill a piece of paper with items that deserve our gratitude: family, friends, faith, jobs, health, homes, kindness shown in every day. I’m capable of getting on a thankful roll, adding a comfortable couch, a clean house, a new hair color, or a great pair of new boots. (In fact, we made an entire podcast episode about funny things women are thankful for…click here to give it a listen.) The reality is that we have much to be grateful for.
But living life means going through the tough stuff too. There are seasons when life challenges become painfully real, tempestuous, and can appear without end. Those seasons don’t avoid the holidays, even the very day we set aside to be thankful.
The last thing that crosses our mind when the life-waves hit us is gratitude for the very wave that just slammed us upside the head. These times require a lot more effort and very often are discovered in the perspective of hindsight, your view from the other side. But as an exercise in finding gratefulness, let’s make that effort. What can we say when the tough stuff hits?
An unfaithful spouse leaves you and your children. Be thankful for those children, even though they came from the creator of your broken heart. They are your treasure today and tomorrow, your reason to go on.
You are ill and the road is daunting. Be thankful that in this season you will cherish everyone you love. Because you know that life is fragile, you will purposefully spend time loving them in ways that had you been well, you may not have.
Your grown child is on a path you know is dangerous and destructive. Be thankful you are their mother. You will love them, pray for them, and be strong for them in the ways they need. You are the one who still believes in who they are capable of being when others no longer see it.
There are seasons where life challenges become painfully real…Those seasons don’t avoid the holidays.
You have lost your job. Be thankful that there are new beginnings, even ones you don’t currently see. Knowing what you have learned in the positions you have already held will prepare you for that future.
Loss of a loved one. Be thankful for what your life with them brought. The breadth of the relationship shared that was filled with mutual love, joy, difficulties, heartfelt discussions, and lots of laughter. Memories to be forever treasured.
Finding those things to be thankful for in the difficult times doesn’t remove the pain nor diminish the challenges. What it can do is make each day a little easier, knowing these seasons are just that, a period of time that comes to an end.
Every one of us has walked through these seasons and will do so again. It’s looking to the strength gained, the wisdom learned and the compassion for others developed that gives us reason to be grateful, even in the midst of the tough stuff.