by Maureen Pratt
Whether you live with the sometimes extreme pressures of everyday life, or your daily stressors are compounded by illness and pain, as Thanksgiving arrives, it might be difficult to feel truly thankful. Yes, lifting up thanks for family, friends, a place to live, and food to eat are the obvious go-tos. But that deep, resonant, soul-inspiring sense of gratitude that springs from a well of comfort and joy may seem far away, if not unreachable.
I can relate to the superficial difficulty in thinking of thanksgiving. This has been a very difficult year in so many ways, and the troubles are amplified by the usual and unusual physical challenges of lupus and chronic pain.
And, yet, in spite of everything, when I truly look at the year “in review,” I can say that I am very thankful.
I am thankful for God in my life, ever present and ever ready to bring comfort and strength.
The sun rising and setting, the seasons changing, the play of birds against the sky or the wind against the tree branches—these and other things of God’s natural world are beauties that are never tainted by the darkness of life stressors. Their constancy brings tremendous comfort on days that are full of woe. These are, in all ways, thanks-evoking.
My gratitude is unbounded for the friends, family, and others in my life, but not in the usual way. It is easy to be a friend in good times, or to only attend to the celebratory events in one another’s lives. No, my deepest thanks go to those who have been so very supportive, good listeners, loyal comforters, true God-sent gifts. I pray for each of them daily, and pray, too, that I will be even half as good of a support to them, when and if the need arises.
Physical challenges are neither easy nor welcome. But through them, I have met the most remarkable people and learned that there are heroes abundant in our society, heroes that toil without awards or medals, but who make a huge difference in others’ lives nonetheless. A heartfelt “Thank you!” to each of these good men and women.
The presence of the church community, fellowship, and faith are true blessings. And, as I have moved through these most recent trials, the richness of ritual and the variety of opportunity to pray, worship, sing, and reflect are never-endingly wonderful.
The opportunity to write these words is a blessing, and I am so very thankful for you who support and read it (and, yes, for you who edit and comment, too!).
Other things to be thankful for?
Kindness. Time. Laughter. Quiet. Possibilities. Creativity.
For as difficult as life can be, and as full of sorrow and pain, within our lives is the privilege of purpose, of nurturing faith and moving along a walk unique to each of us, but tied together by God’s will. And for that, I am especially and enthusiastically grateful!
At this time of year, it is easy to become despondent about having too much stress or not enough resources—hours in the day, money, health, opportunity to work or travel or relax. Perhaps, the loss of a loved one has brought deep sorrow so close to home that the thought of a festive holiday is impossible. Or, perhaps for other reasons, loneliness presses heavily upon this time and season.
But, even within these struggles, there are gifts. And, as we pray to recognize them and reflect on them, we can turn the problem of thanksgiving into a deepening of spirit and a strengthening of courage and love.
A blessed Thanksgiving to you and all you hold dear!
Maureen Pratt is an author and speaker who focuses on faith, prayer, and living with chronic pain and illness. She is an internationally-syndicated columnist (“Living Well”), a blogger and regular contributor to Beliefnet.com and the author of six books including Beyond Pain: Job, Jesus, and Joy (Twenty-Third Publications) and Peace in the Storm: Meditations on Chronic Pain & Illness. Maureen lives with multiple, serious chronic illnesses, including lupus, cardiovascular disease, and advanced patellofemoral arthritis. Her website is www.maureenpratt.com