When Thanksgiving is Difficult

Posted by Naomi Vacaro on

Navigating Grief in a Season of Gratitude
Caitlyn Decker

Does Thanksgiving ever make you feel out of place?
Everywhere you look there are images, stories, and promotions of joyful and thankful families feasting together. It’s a cheerful scene, but what happens when we don’t fit in that picture? How do we navigate a holiday of giving thanks while we’re in a season of grief?
It’s natural to want to hide until the celebrations are over but hiding will ultimately lead us to further isolation and pain. The Lord didn’t design us to only be thankful in certain seasons of life. Instead, the Lord calls us to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18). He doesn’t give these commands callously, oblivious to our loss, but mercifully in the midst of our pain as a God Who knows our weaknesses and sympathizes with us when we want to run, hide and isolate (Heb. 4:15).
Jesus wept with Mary and Martha at the death of their brother Lazarus. Even though He knew He was going to raise the dead man to life in just a few moments, He mourned and wept with the sisters. So, we can go to Jesus knowing that He cares about our grief.

So how do we run towards Jesus when Thanksgiving is difficult?

Surround Yourself with Community.
When we’re grieving, the last thing we may feel like is surrounding ourselves with people, especially if those gatherings remind us of our missing loved ones. Yet pain, like sin, thrives in darkness and consumes in isolation. Fellowship helps us focus on others rather than solely on our own pain and allows others to encourage us.

Serve Others.
Ecclesiastes tells us there is a time for everything: A time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance. So there also is a time for us to take time to grieve and there is a time to look beyond ourselves and serve others. Perhaps it’s time this Thanksgiving to volunteer at a shelter invite someone who doesn’t have plans to join your celebrations or visit someone who is also grieving. Serving others can free us up to see and feel beyond our own emotions and open our eyes to the faithfulness of the Lord in the lives of others and how He can use us even in our pain - especially in our pain - to do His work.

Let the Heartache Draw You to the Lord.
I once heard it said that the imperfections of this world are reminders that we are made and bound for another world. Just like turning the corner to be blasted by a cold rush of wind can remind us we were not made to live outside, our heartache can remind us that we are made for another world—one where He will wipe every tear from our eyes (Rev. 21:4). While pain has the potential to drive us away from the Lord, it can also draw us closer to the Lord as we remember and cling to the Lord’s faithful promises.

Take Time Away to be with the Lord.
Although our hearts can often find comfort and healing with others, it is the Lord alone who can heal our hearts. Jesus went off to be alone with the Lord when He heard of John the Baptist’s death (Matt. 14:13), and we should follow His example, taking time to be one-on-one with Him as we process our grief.

Navigating the season of Thanksgiving without a loved one will never be easy, but it can become a season when we grow in the Lord. As we cling to Him, He’ll draw near and comfort us.

Caitlyn Decker is a young stay-at-home mom who loves spending her time with her husband and son on the family farm. She enjoys baking, writing and having long, deep conversations.
Applying Scripture to Life emotions Feelings God's Character Grief Hard Seasons thanksgiving

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