At a recent Thanksgiving gathering of friends, I read Psalm 100; my “go to” Scripture for Thanksgiving. I quickly grabbed it off my phone, not realizing what translation was selected.
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
    Serve the Lord with gladness!
    Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the Lord, he is God!
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
    and his courts with praise!
    Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the Lord is good;
    his steadfast love endures forever,
    and his faithfulness to all generations.
This is the English Standard Version (ESV), which I rarely use.  As I was reading it, I couldn’t help but notice how many exclamation points there were. I commented that I couldn’t recall another Scripture with so many exclamation points.  This made the entire feeling of the Scripture new to me.  It was so effusive with joy and praise.  It appeared so energized with happiness that I couldn’t help but feel the difference.
The reason I really noticed this was because I had had the thought of a hard thanks on my mind for the last few weeks.  What I mean by a hard thanks is the ability to be grateful and give thanks even when life stinks, when loss overwhelms and when injustice reigns.  I have too many friends and family who are walking through crisis and illness.  I see crippled hearts that cling to hope and pray for grace and yet the circumstances in their lives continue to stink, losses still overwhelm and injustice persists.  Some things just aren’t right, and it’s hard to have a grateful heart in the midst of it all! 
When I think about being thankful in hard circumstances, the memory of my mom passing away comes to mind. Her exit wasn’t peaceful, her body went through some scary stuff. Never having been beside someone who was fighting death to the end, it was pretty traumatic for me.  Sitting there, in a heap of inconsolable tears, I prayed to God.  I was angry, despondent, and I felt abandoned.  He didn’t grant my prayers… He didn’t heal her… Yet while my heart stood dazed with all the things that God didn’t do, my head knew who God was and knew that He loved me.  I knew about the promise of eternity, that hard-won provision given to us by Christ.  It was from that perspective of hope that my prayer was launched.  I thanked God, for God.  I told Him my heart was breaking, but that I loved Him and knew that He never promised to preserve our earthly bodies.  I offered my sacrifice of praise.  Even in the midst of loss, I held on to the greatest gain.  I had Him and I still had my mom.  One day I’d be face to face with each of them.  Despite my depths of despair I praised Him.
The only reason I was able to step into that hard thanks was because I had recently read Hebrews 13:15, Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that confess his name. At the time I didn’t fully understand how praise could be a sacrifice, but as I sat in that moment, the meaning came into full view.  I had been well accustomed with loss in my life, but not sacrifice.  What had I ever freely given up except denying myself a brownie or cookie?  And honestly, I wasn’t very good at that!  Yet as I sat in my devastation I realized it was an opportunity to give up my anger, despondency, and loneliness.  So I chose to, and when I said that prayer, that act of sacrifice led me into a deeper intimacy with God.  That moment brought with it humility and dependence.  Like a discarded piece of paper, it wadded up my argument with the list of wrongs I was entitled to, but relinquished.  Instead, I chose God.  I chose His perspective.  I chose His will.  I chose to trust in Him. 
One act of thanksgiving, when things go wrong with us, is worth a
thousand thanks when things are agreeable to our inclinations. 
Saint John of Avila
Over the years I’ve learned to hold everything loosely.  Loss is an inevitability with age.  This perspective isn’t meant to be a downer, it’s meant to acknowledge the riches that stream in and out of our lives and point to The One who blesses us with them.   The One who is exuberantly celebrated with exclamation points in the Psalm above. 
I can easily punctuate the gifts in my life with exclamation points, yet I still struggle with using them in seasons of loss.  When I neglect those exclamation points, I miss out on selflessly honoring what was lost and The One who granted them in the first place.  The practice of a hard thanks is rooted in verse 5, For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.  As far as I’m concerned, this last verse is the one that truly deserves an exclamation point! 
So this Thanksgiving, whether in abundance or loss, I pray you can put an exclamation point after the gratitude you feel for a God who freely offers His goodness, His steadfastness, His enduring love, and His faithfulness to every generation of your family, no matter the circumstances. 
As I count my blessings this holiday, allow me to count you!  I’m really so grateful that you read my blog and hope that you are transformed by what God has put on my heart to share.  Be blessed!
As a certified Christian Life Coach I can help you move from where you are to where God wants you to be. If you are looking to gain clarity and get ‘unstuck’ then let’s chat. I’d love to be your champion in what God is calling you to do!  

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