The Sacrifice of Thanksgiving
Sometimes it’s just flat out hard to be thankful…do you ever feel that way? There are days when the stresses and pressures of life feel like just too much for this girl to handle and all I want to do is press a virtual reset button by going to bed with the hope of starting the next day fresh and new! If I am honest, I can often feel this way when I am in the middle of a “Divine Discipline”. I want to be angry at God or I can let the impatient yuck inside my heart ooze out on the people I love the most. Usually, however, a while after the difficult middle moments of when I am awaiting a miracle of God (or He is waiting for me to receive a new revelation about a flesh pattern that needs to change), I can look back at His divine discipline with new eyes of gratitude.
The other day the six of us went to dinner with another family. They have a little girl who is so very precious. Markel is like a marshmallow when it comes to little girls…every time we are with a girl I am reminded and ever thankful for God’s sovereign choice to give us all boys because that pink bundle of joy would have had Markel wrapped around her dainty, little pinky!) Anyway, this sweet-nothing-but-pink-sunshine wasn’t so sunshiny throughout dinner. She didn’t want to sit still so she fussed throughout the dinner as her parents tried to distract, cajole and woo her into a winsome demeanor.
When we left that evening, I rode home with my youngest, and he said, “Wow, mom. I love that little girl but boy did she fuss a lot! Was I like that when I was her age?” I replied with a chuckle and said, “All of you boys had your moments, however, that was not an option. I mean you could fuss but swift and loving correction would follow. I remember one time in particular when your brother tested the boundaries of what was acceptable…I felt like a yo-yo with discipline and correction, however I loved him SO much, that I wanted to teach him what it meant to follow quickly, quietly, completely and joyfully. You see when ya’ll were little, Dad and I knew that our job was to prepare your hearts to follow – for a season this was practiced through following us, but it was all in preparation to train your eyes, ears and hearts to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading so that when He said, “This is the way, Isaiah walk in it, you would have already formed the habit and heart-stance to follow Him quickly, quietly, completely and with thankful heart of joy.” Isaiah said, “Wow…I remember the days of swift discipline. I didn’t like it so much in the moment, but thank you for sticking with it, Mom!” He was quiet for a moment and then said, “Whenever I have kids, will you just tell me and my wife how to train them?” I am smiling now as I think about this brief convo we had in the car ride home…
Isn’t that how it is for all of us? In the moments of divine discipline, our hearts hurt and we wonder why we are enduring this hard thing? And yet what if in the moment, not years later, but in the very moment of what feels like divine discipline, we choose to thank the Lord for His sovereign hand that orchestrates all that unfolds in our lives? I mean He’s either worthy of our trust or not, right? He’s either the blessed and only Sovereign of all things or He’s not (1 Tim 6:15). What would happen if we stopped long enough to find a way to praise or thank Him? Even if it’s just, “Thank you Father that this circumstance is beyond my ability to see. I thank you that I can choose to look beyond the visible circumstances of the moment and fix my eyes on The One Who is Invisible. (Heb 11:27) Every time I have chosen to practice this discipline of gratitude, its like a light of peace and joy infiltrate my heart and mind. Even though I am still residing in the middle moment of discipline, my perspective is enlightened as I choose to entrust the burdens I am facing to my Father who already knows all about them and has a plan to redeem them for my good and His glory!
I just read Hebrews 10:23 two days ago in my One Year Bible => its an encouragement with a promise, “Without wavering, let us hold tightly to the hope we have, FOR GOD CAN BE TRUSTED to keep his promise.” Without wavering! What would it look like this Thanksgiving season if we chose to trust our Heavenly Father without wavering? A few verses later, we are exhorted with this: “Do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord no matter what happens…patient endurance is what you need right now so you will continue to do God’s will. THEN you will receive all that He has promised…” What would it look like if we entered this season with a heart rooted in God’s faithfulness. So anchored in Who He is and in His faithfulness, that we are free to praise and thank Him like the lilies of the field regardless of what storms may come?
I am praying for each of us during this Thanksgiving season, that we might ask ourselves the question, "What If?" What if God is Who He says He is? What if we actually took Him at His Word? What if we as parents model for our children the choice to continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God and let the fruit of our lips give pure thanks to His name even whilst we feel like a divine discipline is unfolding? (Hebrews 13:13). Did you catch the word, “sacrifice”? When things are hard, praise and thanksgiving can feel like a gut-wrenching sacrifice! It is so easy to have a heart that screams, “I don’t’ want to thank You for... I don’t want to trust You with this…”
But what if we as a community choose to lay down a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving at the feet of the Father this Thanksgiving season? What if like Isaiah, we thank Him for the discipline even while it is unfolding, praising Him for the harvest of the peaceful fruit of righteousness that will follow! As I type this post, I have a visual of our heavenly Father looking down on our community with such eyes of adoration as we collectively gather together in each of our homes and share the goodness of God with each other, sacrificing words of praise and thanksgiving for all He has done, is doing and has yet to reveal in the days to come!
p.s. Hebrews 12:7-13 is worth the read – the passage ends with an exhortation and a promise, telling us to take a new grip with our tired hands and to stand firm on our shaky legs, marking out a path for our feet SO THAT those who follow us [our children!], though they are weak and lame, will not stumble and fall, but will become strong! Now that’s a powerful prod in my back to model praise and thanksgiving to my family!
As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Whoever heard of a child who was never disciplined?…God’s discipline is always right and good for us because it means we will share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening – it is painful! But afterward there will be a quiet harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. Hebrews 12:7,10,11
p.p.s. I wanted to share one more thing that’s a little deeper…I realize that just encouraging the community to sacrifice a word of thanksgiving can seem so trite, especially if you are facing a deep, dark inexplicable valley that causes you to question the very goodness of God. I have traveled through similar valleys on quite a few occasions of my life. Some of the valleys I have traversed have been of my own doing and others have been a journey led by a seemingly invisible and distant God. I share this after-thought because it is not that – an after thought – in fact it is a fore thought. After I read this post, my heart began to ache as I am aware that there are families within my relational circle that are in a hard place – a valley place. When I have walked through the valley seasons in my life, whether they were due to my decision or were simply allowed by the Lord, I can look back with certainty and know this one thing to be true: I would much rather pass through those dark seasons with a seemingly distant Savior and Redeemer than striving and fighting to get up and out to the other side. We have Jesus Emmanuel, God With Us. If there is only one thing to sacrificially thank our Father for this Thanksgiving season, it is this: His Son died for us and provided a way for us to spend eternity with Him. I don’t think I will ever fully understand death or loss or pain and suffering this side of heaven, but I have and will continue to cling to the hope of a Savior who is ever with us. I am praying for the families who are hurting this holiday season. Praying that Jesus, our Savior, our Redeemer, our Ever-Present Help in Time of Need will reveal Himself to you in a way that is tangible and real…real enough to allow a sacrifice of praise to fall from your lips…
Much love and many prayers for our sweet community,
Hills & Valleys by Tauren Wells