“Thanksgiving While Grieving”

Thanksgiving is different this year.  It’s the first Thanksgiving in sixty years that Linda and I haven’t been together. Her absence is keenly felt. Grief remains raw.

Admittedly, gratitude isn’t the prevailing emotion. Lament prevails over praise. Tears surface more readily than laughter.  Sorrow’s night time still awaits morning’s joy.

Then, I read the Apostle Paul’s exhortation to the Thessalonians, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess. 5:18).

My first response is “Paul, you’ve got to be kidding! This sounds like a pious positive-thinking platitude propagated by a prosperity preacher.”

I realize, however, that the admonition comes from one who knew far more hardship, suffering,  grief, and struggle than anything I have experienced. He chronicles some of his challenges:

. . . countless floggings, and often near death. Five times I have received. . .forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from bandits, danger from my own people, . . ., danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers and sisters; in toil and hardship, through many sleepless nights, hungry and thirsty, often without food, cold and naked” (2 Corinthians 11:23-27).

So I can’t easily dismiss his admonition that I “rejoice always” and  “give thanks in all circumstances.”  He knows some things I need to remember and practice amid my sadness and struggles.

For one thing, the present circumstance is not the whole story. Loss and grief can feel all-consuming, the tragic end of the story.

But the Apostle Paul knew that our stories are emeshed is a much larger narrative. We are all part a Love Story that encompasses all creation. The Eternal Power that brings creation into existence is ever working to renew, reconcile, heal,  and bring to completion all things.

Therefore, we can rejoice and give thanks that within the worst of circumstances, God is present, working to comfort, heal, reconcile, renew, and bring wholeness. In this Love Story, the most painful and debilitating experiences are woven into the fabric of a new future we call Resurrection!

As participants in this eternal Love Story, we are never alone. We are connected to one another and to all of God’s creation. Paul states it boldly, “Nothing in all creation, in life or in death, is able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:19).

On this first Thanksgiving Day without the physical presence of Linda, I rejoice and give thanks for

  •  love shared for six decades and which continues to bind us together
  •  family and friends who lend their loving support
  •  joyful memories of tender and carefree times
  •  suffering relieved and wholeness gained
  •  hope that “joy will come in the morning”
  •  love that endures
  •  lament amid loss, comfort amid sorrow
  •  being part of God’s ongoing Love Story!

Thank you, Paul, for helping me rejoice and give thanks on this first Thanksgiving Day without Linda’s physical presence.

Hands crossed in prayer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

14 thoughts on ““Thanksgiving While Grieving”

  1. Thanks for your uplifting message. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours and for the many happy Memories. I was so fortunate to have Jack for so many years.

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    • I hope you don’t mind my using some of your thoughts today. I have been asked to say the prayer at our family gathering in a few hours. This year we are mourning the death.of one of our family, and we have a new baby Eva. Using the text of rejoicing in the Lord is just perfect.

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  2. On this Thanksgiving Day, I give thanks for you, Br. Kenneth, and for Sr. Linda. Your writings through her long illness, passing, and now have comforted and inspired me and helped me to “give thanks in all things.” May God bless you and continue to give you ways to lead all of us closer to God.

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  3. Thank you, Bishop, for the reminder. For those of us who are experiencing a different kind of death—the death of our country as we knew it—your words are much needed.

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  4. Thank you for everything you Ken. You have continuously been a help to my family and I can’t begin to thank you enough for the light and guidance you have opened my eyes, heart and soul to in the short time I have known you. I am so thankful that I was given the opportunity to meet you through your beautiful family. Love you all.

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  5. Thank you, Ken. All grace upon you and Linda and your family. It may or may not be a common experience, but I continue to awaken to how strong and deep Martha’s love and mine is now that we’re apart for a time, and how close our three children are becoming. May you drink deep from the well of Christ’s love that flows through us all.

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  6. A Blessed Thanksgiving to you and yours! A powerful reflection of Paul and the letter to the church at Thessaloniki. Sending love and God’s Comfort to you today. ❤️🍁🦃❤️🍁💕

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