It’s November. And if you pay any attention to social media, it becomes obvious very quickly that every blogger in America is focused on writing about gratitude.
Thanksgiving is around the corner, after all.
So this makes sense.
But for many, the holiday season, for which Thanksgiving is somewhat the “ribbon cutting,” can be an extremely difficult time.
Maybe some of you have lost a loved one in the last year, and this will be the first holiday season you celebrate without them.
Maybe some of you have recently gone through a divorce, and this will be the first holiday season you celebrate alone.
Maybe the holidays will be a difficult time, not because of something that occurred in your past, but because of something you’re walking through right now.
A lost job.
A broken relationship.
A cross-country move.
The consequences of poor choices.
And as a result of these circumstances, finding gratitude in your context is difficult at best.
I’ve been there. So I understand how daunting the holidays can seem during tough times.
A few months ago, though, I asked our Facebook followers to share their ideas for finding gratitude in the midst of a sea of difficult circumstances. (Hint: I’d love to have your opinions too, so please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter, so you can join the conversation!)
I got some great answers.
One of them focused on the relationship between our faith and our gratitude during times of trial. And I believe that the responder was right on.
Several years ago, I was going through an extremely difficult time in my life as a result of some very personal circumstances. It was a time that was layered with immense physical demands, numerous emotional challenges, and difficult decision-making, to the point that I began to spiral towards a state of complete dysfunction. I was performing poorly as a wife, as a mom, and as a professional. And each day that I rose out of bed, I realized I was less of the person I had been just the day before.
I was disintegrating into a shell of myself.
But I was so weary and overwhelmed with my life that I didn’t even care.
In hindsight, I’m quite certain I was on the edge of a literal nervous-breakdown and a state of extreme depression, the likes of which I’d never experienced, nor do I ever want to experience again.
It was a tough, tough place.
But looking back on it now, I see my circumstances from a different perspective.
Because each day, God would provide.
It was no more and no less than precisely what I needed to get through the day. In that regard, it was a similar way in which God provided manna for the Israelites while they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years.
Last week, I shared about my experience in therapy during this difficult time. How I struggled to find gratitude in the midst of it. And how my therapist challenged me on this point and forced me to look for those things for which I could be grateful as I walked such a difficult journey. I also shared how hard this was for me in the beginning.
But hindsight is a beautiful thing because, now, I see the beauty in this part of my past.
I see how God used those circumstances to teach me.
About His word in the scriptures.
About letting go.
And most importantly, God used my circumstances to teach me to rely solely and completely on Him to get through the day, one day at a time.
It was, indeed, a beautifully tough time in my life. It forever changed me. And I would never desire to go back to who I was before I started that journey. God used my circumstances to refine me. And I’m so thankful for that now.
Friends, I’ll never know the full context of your story. I’ll never know the depth of your wounds. Or the complexity of your struggles.
But I do know that you aren’t alone.
I do know that God will carry you through this difficult time if you’ll let Him.
And I do know that God will use your circumstances to refine you. To draw you near. And to teach you to trust in His provision along the way.
You may not be able to see how God is working in your life right about now. But trust God to do just that. Thank God in advance for doing a great work in you during whatever struggle you’re going through. And look for God’s daily provision.
If you do these things daily, I think you’ll find abundant reasons to be thankful in spite of your circumstances. And that, I believe, is what Thanksgiving is truly about.
How do you find gratitude during life’s difficult times?