I got the text while I was at work.
“We can’t come,” it read.
The visit we had been looking forward to for months was getting cancelled.
I took a deep breath and said, “Thank you, God. I’m not sure why I’m thankful, but you know why.”
This is not what my heart wanted to say. Honestly, this is not even my usual reaction. But, amazingly, it’s what I said.
Here’s why. For people like me who believe in Jesus, we often want to know what God wants us to do. (Even if you don’t believe but still wonder if God is real, you might ask this kind of question too.) We ask for signs. We seek clues to figure out his plan. We talk to wise friends who help us make good decisions.
What’s funny is that God doesn’t hide what he wants us to do. He’s ridiculously clear when he says, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
Oh. So that’s it.
Whatever happens: Rejoice. Give thanks. Not only when I get the news I want, but also when I don’t—especially when I don’t. When my friends’ trip needs to be postponed. When school goes online for two weeks. When I see the noise from politics. When holiday plans get pared back.
This doesn’t mean I take disappointment lightly. Not at all.
The hurts people have faced and are facing this year still weigh on my heart. Especially the ones that are far heavier than cancelled plans—isolation, unemployment, a terminal diagnosis, divorce, depression, addiction, death.
What I’ve found, though, is that by letting my first words be thank you, it turns my mind and my heart back toward God. It keeps my eyes open for the way he works. I see people who step up to pray for and care for those who are suffering. I remember that his plans are not my plans, that his ways are not my ways. I learn patience as I wait for him to work all things for our good and his glory. The more I see the big and small ways he is working, the more I can be thankful and sad at the same time.
Later this month, the United States has a day set aside for us to be thankful. I’m anticipating a few jokes about things from 2020 that we aren’t thankful for. (Murder hornets and murder hornet nests, anyone?) Maybe you have no idea how you’re going to face a day where you’re supposed to be thankful when serious struggles, hurts, and losses fill your heart. Maybe you can start by saying, “Thank you, God. I have no idea why this is happening, but thank you.”
This Thanksgiving month, if you’re among the hurting, please share your prayer requests at Time of Grace or post a request in our Grace Talks Facebook Group. Our community of pray-ers would be honored to pray bold prayers for you!
P.S. About an hour after my friend’s initial text, I received an update: “Plans are back on!” And I said, “Thank you, God.”
Linda Buxa is a writer and editor who doesn’t usually like to be cold but is thankful that murder hornets don’t survive in cold climates.