Should I Be Thankful? A Gift of Perspective & Grace
What comes to mind when you hear the word “should”?
A plethora of feelings rises to the surface for me: shame, guilt, a sense of pressure, obligation, the dread of not measuring up. It isn’t pretty, folks.
- I should feel better by now.
- I should say “yes” but I’m not sure I have time.
- I should have made a different decision.
- I should exercise more.
- I shouldn’t be sad anymore, but I am.
- It’s the holidays, I should be thankful.
And there it is. Our hearts exposed and laid bare. Our expectation of the world does not measure up to our reality.
Pumpkins decorate every yard, and the grocery store stocks the shelves with turkey, ham, and dressing mixes. A neighbor casually asks in passing, “What are you doing for the holidays?” Pinterest is chock full of cute turkey projects and Thankful boards.
Yet, in the quiet of your room, you feel the ache of missing a loved one, the pain of a broken world, or the grief of unrelenting circumstances that will not be resolved by a holiday celebration.
Setting Aside “Should”
My youngest son picked out the most beautiful pumpkin back in October. It’s been sitting on our hearth begging to be useful. Somewhere on the internet, I saw a cute idea for writing your thankfulness on a pumpkin. At the time, I just wasn’t feeling it, so there it sat – an orange gourd.
This week, determined to be thankful and to set aside any “shoulds,” I found a Sharpie and plunked down in the middle of my living room floor with our big ole pumpkin in my lap. Then, I wrote the words I know are true even when I struggle to feel them.
“We are thankful.”
I began to write. Here is what struck me. One of my son’s contributions was this: “I am thankful for kind teachers.”
While this may seem simple and clear, the deeper truth reveals the root of thankfulness. My son is being bullied at school. I emailed his teachers and asked for some assistance in the matter. Their responses were quick and kind. Even though the situation remains unresolved, the love and advocacy of the adults in his life comfort my son.
"In the cauldron of suffering, thankfulness rose to the surface shining brightly." -Melissa N Smith
Where else does thankfulness rise?
A friend of mine has CoVid. Her entire family is quarantined for two weeks – work and school from home. Despite the inconvenience and challenge, she told me that it makes her appreciate the simplicity of life and the gift of time with family. Holding to this perspective will give her courage and patience in the coming days.
Be Thankful In All Circumstances
In the book of First Thessalonians, Paul writes, ”Give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” This simple instruction acknowledges that each day carries a variety of ups and downs, good and evil, triumph and defeat. Despite it all, God calls us to look to Him and give thanks. “Thank Him for what?” you ask.
- As we grieve in His presence, He comforts us (Psalm 147:3).
- When we carry our anxiety to Him through prayer, He guards our hearts and minds with peace (Philippians 4).
- No matter the loss or pain or heartache, He never leaves us nor forsakes us (Deuteronomy 31:6).
- Though the world groans with brokenness and evil, He will restore it. (Revelation 21 and Romans 8:19-23)
- In the midst of difficulty and trial, community in the body of Christ provides support. (Romans 12)
This year will long be remembered for the difficulties it contained. However, in this season of Thanksgiving, let us look to our Heavenly Father and grieve in His Presence.
"Thankfulness is not a “should” in our life. It is a gift of perspective and grace." -Melissa N smith
As Thanksgiving approaches, set aside any “shoulds” you carry. Instead, name your grief and longing in the presence of God. Allow His comfort to draw your heart into the truth of His goodness and love. May He shower you with His grace and fill you with the joy of gladness.
“Praise the Lord. Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; For His steadfast love endures forever.”
Psalm 106: 1, ESV
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