What if Thanksgiving occurs during hard times?

Usually I like to post a warm and fuzzy post for Thanksgiving week about gratitude, but not this year. Families and friends are gathered around good food all across our nation this week in hopes of enjoying themselves. But so often we don’t enjoy ourselves. Being with family can be hard, and for so many, being with family is not possible this year.

And Thanksgiving is going to hurt.

For whatever reason, I am surrounded by people who are suffering this holiday season and am reminded that circumstances do not always line up with the celebration calendar.

I hope to post some encouragement for those who are suffering this week. 

As perfect timing would have it, I listened to a PODCAST with Katherine Wolf, who suffered from a massive brain stem stroke in 2008. She and her husband, Jay, have since founded Hope Heals. Her views on suffering take me aback. Here are some excerpts from Katherine’s talk as she spoke from a stage while seated in a wheelchair, wearing a heating pad on her back because of excruciating pain, and healing from a bruised leg and elbow caused by a recent fall. Others would have cancelled, but what I love about Katherine is that she keeps showing up. May we all do the same.

I couldn’t get her message out of my mind, so I re-listened and typed out key excerpts to share with all of you. Maybe you too will allow her to tutor you through hard times in life. She is a worthy teacher.

1. God is not withholding any good thing from you.

Katherine addressed Psalm 84:11 in light of hard times: No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. She quoted Sir Richard Baker, a theologian from the 1600’s: The chiefly good things in life, are not things. They are peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Spirit, fruition of His presence in this life and the assurance of His face in the next. Of these things chiefly, He will never withhold from those who walk uprightly with Him.

And then she wrapped up her comments by saying this:

No matter how bad things are in your story…physically, medically, in relationships, in your finances, whatever, He has not withheld the truly good things from you. That is truth. You have got access to everything you need to get through the very worst things because the good things aren’t things at all.

2. We can decide ahead of time how we will respond.

Habakkuk 3:17-18 says, Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

Katherine wrote a customized version of these verses in May 2009, the year after her stroke when she was still really bad off: Though I cannot walk and I am confined to a wheelchair, though my face is paralyzed and I cannot smile, though I am extremely impaired and cannot take care of my own baby boy, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will be joyful in God my Savior.

How do you need to re-write Habakkuk 3:17-18 going into this Thanksgiving week?

3. We can suffer strong.

Katherine heard recently from a missionary friend that the American church is the only place in the world where small groups gather and pray for healing the minute they get a diagnosis for anything. Do you know how the rest of the world prays?

Lord, help me to cling to Christ. Help me to honor you as I suffer well.

Katherine challenges us to “suffer strong.” She says life’s going to be hard, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be so, so good. She sees the constraints caused by our suffering as God saying, You can thrive and you can flourish within this little space I’ve given you. She cites Psalm 16:6 that says our boundary lines have fallen in “pleasant” places!

Have hope, everyone.

Picture Explanation: Last year we traveled to feast at Thanksgiving with our daughter’s family and grandchildren. This year they come to us! I can’t wait to embrace these two beautiful grandchildren very soon! The featured image of the acorns in small hands that I use to identify my blog is a picture of my granddaughter’s hands taken in our back yard many Thanksgivings ago!

Please consider following @hopeheals on Instagram and Twitter.

© 2018 by Oaks Ministries. All rights reserved.

10 Responses

  1. Oh, Laurie….what a cup of cool water….your words offer hope, encouragment, and validation…Thanksgiving is going to hurt, but I am going to keep on holding on to Jesus, as we walk this final two months of our first year. In the midst of deep pain, I am so grateful and will be thankful for so much on Thursday. so thankful for you, dear friend.

    1. Though I know many in difficult times right now, I had two friends especially in mind. You were one of the two. I am glad it was received as cool water. I wanted it to bless you. My prayers will be with you all week.

  2. Although families mourn loved ones gone on, and spouses renig on covenant vows, stranding desolate families and tearing apart kids; though America is pulled contradictory ways, each side accusing more than humbly confessing, and disease makes the question mark of the future bold . . . , still, AS we REJOICE in the God of our youth, the Three in One who holds all things in place and wraps arms of comfort, peace, and joy around us in trials, the sheer shock of a slapped God turning to extend full, abounding grace melts weights off our shoulders, and we bow in grateful praise.

    1. Oh, my goodness! I love that your personalized Habakkuk 3:17-18! Thank you! I hope others see it and are encouraged. Thank you for modeling how to read a Bible verse and ponder it in a way that gives us strength and changes how we face a day.

  3. I heard Katherine last Sunday too, and she touched my heart. Her perspective on life was heart felt, genuine, and God honoring! It challenged me to not wish hard times away, but to embrace them and want to learn whatever God is trying to teach me through them. I want to be able to trust the Lord’s love for me even when times are hard!

    1. You saw her live on stage? I am looking forward to the same someday. Yes, God is being honored in specific ways through her disability and we can all learn from Him through her.

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I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes growth.

1 Corinthians 3:6

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