The Beauty of Hard Thanksgivings

radiating Christ's love with image of lighthouse in the night

For some of you, Thanksgiving will be hard. Painful. Maybe chaotic and surrounded by dysfunction. But God can bring such eternal beauty in the midst of your most challenging moments. In fact, the beauty can come precisely because of your hardship.

One fall when we lived in Southern California, I wanted to teach our daughter about the constellations. This proved challenging as the town we lived in remained perpetually lit, allowing us to see only the brightest stars. One evening, my husband and I decided to take a family drive to the desert–we lived on the edge of the Mojave. Once we arrived and looked above, we were awed by the beauty. The night sky glimmered with countless stars, their radiance clear and striking in the black sky.

This is how God shines in us. If we belong to Jesus, Scripture says we are the light of the world. This means we display the radiance and hope and life of Christ, whether or not we speak a word. He remains in us, illuminating our surroundings and relationships with light.

But though He is always shining, sometimes His light shines brighter than others. When we display a supernatural love in text pulled from post on yellow backgroundthe face of hatred, and health and grace amidst dysfunction, our reliance on Him and His power displayed through us magnifies our radiance.

The other day, I spoke to a sweet friend who has experienced more hardship than any other person I know. It seems as if life is hitting her hard, relentlessly, from every angle: health, relational, financial … It will likely be very hard for her to remain thankful this Thanksgiving. With tears in her eyes, she said to me, “It’s hard to see God in all this.” Her voice cracked. “What did I do?”

My reply: “You did nothing wrong.”

To the contrary. Though I know she’s not perfect, she consistently reveals Christ, not only in her words and actions but perhaps most importantly, in her steady reliance on Him. Simply by walking with Him and leaning on Him through her pain, she reveals a God who holds tight, who remains and never lets go. She demonstrates the reality of the gospel.

Just over 2,000 years ago, an ancient church planter named Paul wrote to a group of new believers who had miraculously been rescued from darkness. They lived in Thessalonica, a wealthy Greek and pagan city filled with idolatry. Scripture makes it clear, they also experienced persecution, but despite that, they received the gospel with joy and thus became an example to all.

Paul wrote:

6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the Word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thes. 1:6-10, ESV).

The Thessalonicans were living examples of the power and reality of the gospel. Their lives proclaimed their faith, and others noticed.

As evangelist John Paul Warren states, “Your life is a witness to the world of a loving Savior and His redemptive plan for man.”

Sometimes, oftentimes, that witness shines brightest in the darkest circumstances, so if this Thanksgiving is hard, remember, you did nothing wrong. You may in fact be doing everything right. God may be using you at this moment to create something eternally beautiful: changed lives. So hold tight, draw near to Him, stay embraced in His love and grace, and trust Him to shine brightly and beautifully through you.

You may also enjoy:

My Near Death Experience and Other Things I’m Thankful for by Unshakable Hope

When Thanksgiving Hurts by Jessica Brodie

Gratitude Changes Everything by Sharon Jaynes

When it’s Hard to be Grateful on Thanksgiving by Kristin, Day Spring Devotionals

Getting Through Thanksgiving Weekend by Andrea Chatelain

Finding Lost Thankfulness by Andrea Chatelain

Make sure to check out Jennifer Slattery’s latest newsletter edition! It contains a cut excerpt from my next release, an inspirational message, recipe, and book review. You can find that HERE, and contact her HERE to book her to speak at your next women’s event. (She also speaks to book clubs and MOPS groups via live video.)

Bible reading plan imageYou may also enjoy Jennifer’s Bible reading plan, Cultivating a Thankful Heart, available on the YouVersion Bible app. You can find it HERE.

Connect with Jennifer Slattery on Facebook and Instagram and follow her on Twitter. You can also find her on Crosswalk.

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