When "the Happiest Season of All" Isn't

The holiday season can make us profoundly aware of all that is wrong in our lives. Watching holiday specials featuring happy families gathered around the Christmas tree makes us grieve the imperfections in our own families. The endless ads for the latest and greatest possessions remind us of our meager bank accounts. The health and apparent well being of others stand in sharp contrast to our own physical, emotional, and spiritual challenges. If we’re not proactive, the “happiest season of all” can become the saddest one.

Unless we let gratitude rescue us.

Social media was full of memes and posts about gratitude during the Thanksgiving season. That’s good. By nature we are self-centered, selfish, ungrateful people. It sounds harsh, but it’s true. I am oftentimes a self-centered, selfish, ungrateful person.

Occasionally, however, the goodness of God overwhelms me, and gratitude bubbles up.

It happened recently in a most unlikely place – my laundry room. Rain had been falling for three days. This probably doesn’t sound like much to those of you who live in places other than the sunny South, but for us, three days of rain with two more forecasted is unusual. And inconvenient.

My gratitude erupted when I pulled the first of two loads of clothes out of the washer and stuffed it into the dryer. I’m so thankful I have a clothes dryer, I thought, and grateful tears welled up. For ten years I lived without one.

On sunny days I’d hang our laundry on a backyard clothesline, and on rainy days I’d string it up all over the house like a Chinese laundry. Remembering those days triggered my grateful response and tendered my heart to recognize God’s goodness.

Another gratitude eruption happened the day I gave blood. “Thirteen point six,” the phlebotomist announced as she read my hemoglobin level. “Thank you, God,” I blurted out.

The technician looked at me strangely, so I explained. “For many years my hemoglobin was so low I couldn’t donate blood. In fact,” I paused, “someone had to give me two pints of blood. Now I donate every chance I get. I’m so grateful to be well.”

Gratitude often wells up on a spiritual level, too. I shared my salvation story recently with a new friend. As I told her my story, all the emotions of those empty and fearful days returned, and I was once again a profoundly lost young adult.

“I’d been living my life my way, and doing a lousy job of it,” I told her. “I was anxious and afraid. I had major life decisions to make and no wisdom to draw from. I went to bed crying and woke up crying.” Tears pricked my eyes at the memory, and I blinked them away.

“Finally, when I couldn’t stand it any longer, I went to talk with the pastor of the church I’d been attending. ‘Lori, don’t you want to surrender your life to Christ?’ he asked. ‘Let him take control.’ His words stirred something deep in my soul. I did want someone bigger and wiser to order my life. I bowed my head and prayed, ‘Lord, I’ve been doing things my way for too long. I don’t want to live this way anymore. I surrender my life to you. Whatever you tell me to do, I’ll do it.’”

“My life’s never been the same since,” I continued. “I have peace, even when things aren’t going my way. I’m not afraid of the future. And I have a wise, loving Father to pray to whenever I need wisdom and direction. I’m very grateful.”

If we let it, gratitude can ride in on a white horse and vanquish the demons of self-pity, comparison, and depression. It can open our eyes to the goodness of God and spotlight his gracious hand in our lives. And it can remind us of how lost we were, and how far we've come.

If you’re struggling this holiday season, will you pray this prayer with me?

Father, thank you for your presence in my life. I’m very grateful you promise never to leave me nor forsake me. Thank you for providing everything I need, and much of what I want. Help me be grateful for what I have instead of dwelling on what I don’t. Lord, I miss the friends and family members who are absent from our holiday celebrations, but I thank you for the years we had together. Thank you for my family—my imperfect, struggling, sometimes heartbreaking family. Help me love them as you love me. Most of all, thank you for sending Jesus – for loving me when I am unlovable, pursuing me when I neglect you, and preparing a place for me where I will live with you forever. I am most richly blessed.

If you're struggling this holiday season, why not try gratitude. I'd love to hear what you're thankful for. Leave a comment below and join the conversation.

Dear Hungry for God friends,

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