By Pastor Devin Strong, Spirit of Peace Lutheran Church.
Spirit of Peace doesn’t offer a traditional Thanksgiving worship service; however, we certainly recognize the importance of this celebration to our culture. Because of the pain so many have experienced in 2020, I believe it may be more important than ever to find grace in our lives and look for reasons to be thankful. As I pondered how to do so, in the midst of such a difficult year, I found myself leaning heavily into the notion of lament.
Lamenting is the Biblical tradition of crying out one’s pain to God. Many of the Psalms speak about the notion of lament, but what does it mean in a culture that tends to skip over sadness as quickly as possible, in order to get back to being happy? It can be hard to allow people to fully express their hurt, because we want them to feel good all the time. However, the reality is that many people have been terribly sick this year and many have died; others have been furloughed or lost their businesses, causing tremendous financial uncertainty. Some families are dealing with the disappointment of not being able to gather together for big, family gatherings during the holidays. Lamenting doesn’t mean God isn’t present with us as we struggle with worry and loss, or that there aren’t still things around us for which to be thankful. In fact, we often see God most clearly in the midst of our pain and hurt. When things are going well, we tend to credit ourselves; whereas, when we’re going through sadness and loss, we find ourselves more inclined to cling to God.
I’ve wondered if a hidden blessing during this time of Thanksgiving might be the fact that it won’t be quite as hectic. With less activity around us, perhaps we can find the wherewithal to say to ourselves, and to each other, that we’re hurting and that it’s OK to not be OK right now. Maybe if we take some time to sit quietly in prayer and – rather than rush through our hurts — actually be with them, we may see that it’s because we’ve known sadness and loss that we are able to also know joy. When we lean into lament, God hears our cries, then gently guides us to the place where – even in the midst of it all — we still find thanksgiving in our hearts and hope in our lives.
Blessings to you and yours on this Thanksgiving Day!