“What do I have to be thankful for?” It is easy to come up with cliché reasons to be thankful, and I believe there really is a place for recognizing the often-overlooked, simple blessings of life in general, and the blessings of marriage in particular. But the reality is we live in a fallen world. Sometimes life doesn’t go at all like we want or expect. Sometimes life hurts—either through our circumstances or through our relationships. And marriage is certainly not immune to this reality.
So, how do you find a place of thanksgiving if your year has been punctuated with pain? How are you thankful when you’ve lost your job unjustly? How do you celebrate when you and your spouse have had serious, marriage-threatening conflict? How do you praise God when you’re worrying about your children? Where is the joy when someone you love won’t be sitting at the Thanksgiving table for the first time…or the twentieth time? How do you go through another year defined by strife, or arguing, or loss—a year filled with things that stands against what a family holiday is supposed to be?
There is no easy answer. No magic bullet that will make all the pain and confusion go away. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t hope. As you observe Thanksgiving this year, consider the following:
- Let Thanksgiving be a time-out to rest. You might not be able to fix your problems, but be intentional about setting them aside at least for a day.
- If your pain is not due to an issue with your spouse, don’t shut your spouse out. Let him/her be a safe harbor for you as you process whatever is plaguing you. Remember, if you are hurting or stressed, it’s very likely your spouse is too, and he/she needs you just as much as you need him/her.
- If your pain is due to an issue with your spouse, begin the journey toward forgiveness. Forgiveness isn’t easy, and restoration of trust takes time, but let Thanksgiving Day be the day you make the first move in that direction.
- Set your mind on things above. Seek God in your current circumstances. What is he teaching you about yourself? About how you relate to your spouse and others? Most significantly, where is your relationship with him? How can you love God and love your neighbor (and remember, your spouse is always your closest most intimate neighbor)? How can you treat others the way you want to be treated?
- And finally, if you are in a healthy, blessed place, be sure to pay attention to those who are not. It is easy to overlook those who are hurting when we are not. Use your marriage to bring goodness into someone else's life.
I pray that you are in a blessed and joyful place personally, in your marriage, and in your life. If not, I pray that you will find clarity, discernment, humility, reconciliation, or whatever it is that you need so that your marriage will be blessed as we move through the holidays. No matter what your Thanksgiving will look like, be thankful. God is still on his throne ruling, and he always loves you. What do you have to be thankful for? A whole lot more than you might be able to clearly see right now.
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