The holiday season is here in full swing. With the holidays comes an influx of traditions, smells, tastes, music, and quality time spent with those you love. This season is often a time to pause and reflect on the past year and how far you’ve come. It’s a time to cherish all things big and small. Extra effort is put into being thankful and celebrating throughout the season.
Even though the holidays are supposed to be the happiest time of the year, it can also lend itself to a lot of pain and heartache. The holidays can trigger memories from the past and how things have changed. It can be painful to feel the void of a passed family member or the loss of a significant other. This season can make us feel disappointed that we don’t have that picture perfect family or someone special to spend the holidays with. It can be an unpleasant reminder that things aren’t quite where we want them to be.
As I reflect on my own experiences this year, I’m bombarded with feelings of sorrow that things have changed. Memories of Christmas’ past flood my mind. The familiar parts of the holidays are different this year. A time that should be filled with anticipation and excitement for holiday gatherings, gift-giving, and spending time with loved ones is overshadowed by the stinging pain that someone will be absent from all that. It’s difficult to be thankful when there is so much pain.
I have to admit, I’ve had numerous breakdowns in the quiet moments between festivities. There have been days when I’ve tried to stay busy to distract from the pain of my emotions. There have also been days when I’ve milked every tear, brooding in the sadness of my circumstances and ruminating in the uncertainty of my life.
The reality is it is sad. It is hard. It feels backwards and unnatural to be seeking joy and thanksgiving in the midst of heartache. Yet, the sorrow and grief I’m experiencing has reminded me of my constant need for God. In my brokenness I’ve begun to experience reliance on God in the purest form. I have to continually choose to trust in the greatness of God and the sureness of His sovereignty. I’m learning to pray, seek Him, and give thanks in everything. The last part seems so paradoxical. Give thanks in everything. Everything. What if everything feels like sadness, grief, confusion, and anger?
I love this quote from She Reads Truth, “God doesn’t ask us to silence our sorrow in favor of thanksgiving. Rather, He uses our sorrow to proclaim a type of thanksgiving we wouldn’t be able to express otherwise.” What a beautiful reminder that even in the hurting and want, we can experience thankfulness. The type of thankfulness God wants us to experience isn’t only for the best parts of our lives, but also the messy parts. God calls us to be comforted in our times of sorrow by the sureness of the hope we can find only in Him. The truth is God is good always. Even in the heartache, sorrow, questioning, and uncertainty…He is good.
I’m slowly learning that I don’t have to dwell in my pain. That doesn’t mean I don’t feel the pain. It means I let it come, experience it, and let it pass. It means remaining steadfast in my faith and holding onto hope.
So here I am in the midst of my pain and emotions, choosing thankfulness. I’m thankful for a God who meets me where I am, wraps me gently in His arms, and let’s me know He has it under control, even if I don’t. I am thankful for the struggle because it has molded me into a stronger, more resilient person. I am thankful for the discomfort because I know it means I’m growing and transforming. I am thankful for the loneliness because it allows me to examine who I am and who I want to become. I am thankful for my friends and family who have supported me through the ups and downs of this year with love, grace, and care. I am thankful for those who speak truth in my life and remind me that beauty can come up from the ashes.
Through it all, I am thankful for the process. I am thankful that I am not defined only by my sorrow and yearning. I am thankful for the ability to express gratitude for this season, even though my heart aches. Most importantly, I am thankful for the true beauty of Christmas and the eternal gift of hope that has been given through the birth of Jesus Christ.
“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” 1 Peter 5:10