A STRUGGLE TO BE THANKFUL

Thursday is Thanksgiving Day.

I want to be thankful, and I do have much for which to be thankful.  But I don’t feel thankful.  My emotions are not resonating with gratitude.  My mind is not turning over images of people or things or occasions or circumstances that bring joy.  Instead, my emotions are resonating with sadness and tension and regret and longing, and my mind is turning over images of things I wish had gone differently in the past or that I wish could be different now.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be writing this on a Sunday evening.  It is said that pastors write more letters of resignation on Sunday evenings and Mondays than at any other time – and I’ve written my share.  One of the hardest things I find in being a pastor is putting forward a positive image even when experiences or feelings are far from positive in my life.  A faithful pastor proclaims the truth of God’s Word even when what is objectively true is not experientially true in his life, and that is what I strive to do.  Today was overall a good day in our church.  Our worship was clearly focused on praising God for who He is and thanking Him for what He has done for us.  We closed our service with a meaningful observance of the Lord’s Supper.  In between I think I gave an adequate exhortation on how we can and should use holidays as “holy days” for deepening our love for Christ – as well as our experience of His love for us – and growing in love for others.

But I struggle in living out those truths because my emotions often wage war in my mind against the truth.

This morning, we sang, “Great is thy faithfulness, great is Thy faithfulness, morning by morning new mercies I see,” but many mornings I can’t seem to see past my worries for that day or the emotional baggage building up from previous days.  We sang, “How great is our God, and all will see how great, how great is our God,” but I wonder if people really see the greatness of God in me.  I know they often see tension and a melancholy spirit.  I know they sometimes see bitterness and frustration.  But the greatness of God?  I’m such a poor witness of this.

I wish my life was more filled with the thankfulness that Keith Getty and Stuart Townsend write about with words that express truths that I believe – truths that I wish would cause confirming emotions to flow out of from me:

My heart is filled with thankfulness to Him who bore my pain
Who plumbed the depths of my disgrace and gave me life again.
My heart is filled with thankfulness to Him who walks beside
Who floods my weaknesses with strength and causes fears to fly.
My heart is filled with thankfulness to Him who reigns above
Whose wisdom is my perfect peace, whose every thought is love.

But on this Sunday night – and many other nights – the emotions are just not there.  Disappointment with myself and circumstances?  Yes.  Loneliness and longing for something or someone who will take the pain away?  Yes.  Feelings of disgrace and weakness?  Yes.  But right now, thankfulness and peace and love are not flowing on the inside.  Right now is an exercise of walking without “sight” – without feeling.  The way for me right now is to walk in emotional darkness, taking one step at a time.  Right now is living in hope that one day I will experientially know my fears taking flight, and my soul resting in His perfect peace.

Right now, I’m hoping that, perhaps one day, my feelings will confirm my faith and I will truly feel thankful.

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