Discouragement & Thanksgiving


I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and let your heart take courage. Yes, wait for the LORD.
—Psalm 27:13-14 NKJV

My wife and I received more discouraging news Tuesday evening. I don’t know why disappointment seems to gather around the holidays like a flock of morbid moths to a Christmas candle, but I’m getting accustomed to it.

We hear all the stories how more people die in December than any other month of the year. (I lost my Dad six Decembers ago, so I can point to my own experience of that truth.) And for every Jolly Old Saint Nick, there’s some Scrooge ready with a “Bah, Humbug!” CornucopiaBad seems to lurk around good for no other reason than sheer spite. Still, I think Job—who had leeway to talk—said it best: “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10)

We Americans aren’t very good at being grateful in times of trouble. I think we used to be, but perhaps our decadence snuffed our thankfulness. I pray that’s not the case. Still, we have a strange karmic approach to thankfulness that says that as long as the good outweighs the bad, we’ll be thankful. If things slide the other way…well, all bets are off.

So we’re going into another Thanksgiving carrying a load. It’s not life-threatening, but it’s still a bitter pill. I thought we’d avoid eating bitter pills on our menu this year. One snuck in with a day to spare, I guess.

I’ve generally thought of myself as a thankful person, though not perfectly. The one thing I’ve tried to instill in my son is gratefulness for even the smallest gifts God gives. Or as Habakkuk so ably put it:

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places. To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.
—Habakkuk 3:17-19 ESV

“To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.” I love that little flourish at the end. Music in the midst of discouragement. Think Paul and Silas in stocks in prison, singing hymns into the wee hours. I wish more modern worship songs said something about praising God when hell burst against us. That’s the kind of strong Church I long to see. “You can flog us to our skin hangs in ribbons, but we’ll go down singing the praises of Jesus Christ.”

(That may come to that sooner than we think.)

Faith is thankfulness for goodness put on hold. Like Psalm 27 says above, Wait for the Lord. Perhaps that’s why so few of us are truly thankful: we don’t know how to wait for anything. “We’ll take the despair now, please, but don’t bother us with thankfulness.” Sometimes, I think we believe thankfulness lives for another day. But it can’t wait, can it? Thankfulness embodies what we are in Christ, every minute of every day.

I hear people saying that Easter is one of the holiest of Christian holy days, but I’d like us to give almost as much attention to Thanksgiving Day. Because as much as we’ll be enjoying the fruits of Christ’s resurrection, we’ll be spending eternity thanking Him for it—and for every small gift we failed to appreciate this side of heaven.

Better practice now.

Have a truly thankful Thanksgiving.

15 thoughts on “Discouragement & Thanksgiving

  1. Rob

    Dan – I know you’re American focused with this blog.. And I’ll respect that.. but thanksgiving “almost as much attention” as Easter? I couldn’t tell you when Thanksgiving is (Other than perhaps a few weeks before Christmas)… I believe it’s something to do with the American pilgrims – who were thankful for being in a new country and they had turkey to eat. (Okay – my American History isn’t brilliant – I’m nation-centric as well and know my Australian history far better). But where does thanksgiving come close to *almost* the death and resurrection of the Lamb?
    And I guess to get in the spirit with my Brothers and Sisters across on the other side of the world – Dan – know that I’m truly thankful for your blog.. it’s inspiring, challenging and thoughtful. A credit to both it’s writer and his creator.

  2. Dan-

    We are indeed a microwave generation, eh? Twenty seconds at 50% power for the perfect donut. I’ve wondered sometimes how the great saints dealt with disappointment, and when I read about Elijah after the defeat of the prophets of Baal, or Israel in the wilderness, I find that I can’t feel too badly about my reaction to bad tidings. But I am blessed by how God reacts: sometimes stern, but always loving. But what I also learn is that I have every reason to give thanks in good times and bad, because “our light and momentary troubles are acheving for us an eternal glory that outweighs them all.” (2Co 4:17) So “be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” (Ro 12:12) Because “we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe. (Heb 12:28)

    God Bless your household this Thanksgiving day.

  3. thanks for these thoughts. love this quote:

    Faith is thankfulness for goodness put on hold.

    I’m sorry to hear about your family’s disappointment…I pray God will sustain you through it and use it to point your eyes and hearts toward eternity.

  4. Let me echo Amy’s prayers for you and your family. One of the songs we often sing at church is “Blessed Be Your Name” by Matt Redman. Some of the lyrics go like this:

    Blessed be your name
    When the sun’s shining down on me
    When the world’s all as it should be
    Blessed be your name
    Blessed be your name
    On the road marked with suffering
    Though there’s pain in the offering
    Blessed be your name

    Since my road right now is a combination of good days and bad days, healthwise, I find this song especially encouraging.

  5. Pingback: such small hands
  6. Kim

    I agree with Amy. I love the quote, “Faith is thankfulness for goodness put on hold.” It is more than that, but it is certainly that. Wait for the Lord. Great post, Dan, and thank you for the insights.

  7. I wish more modern worship songs said something about praising God when hell burst against us.

    I’ve mentioned them here before, but you need to check out the Casting Crowns song “I Will Praise You in This Storm’. If I remember right, the song is dedicated to a family who lost a child after a long illness and to the faith they showed during that long, painful ordeal. Check out the lyrics here>/a>, but this is the chorus:

    I’ll praise You in this storm
    And I will lift my hands
    For You are who You are
    No matter where I am
    Every tear I’ve cried
    You hold in Your hand
    You never left my side
    And though my heart is torn
    I will praise You in this storm

    The song is powerfully done and is a statement of the determination to stand firm in one’s faith when the torrents rage against us to drag us away.

  8. The discouragement comes from being forced to take sides on an issue that only brings division and extreme pain (and no, it’s not a church split). I have a decision I must make, but I’m sort of damned if I do and damned if I don’t on what I decide. None of this concerns any fault of ours, but we’ve been dragged into a no-win situation between several parties of varying sizes, relational closeness, and dysfunctions.

    Sometimes I get very depressed at always being forced to “take a hit for the team.” My wife and I just don’t understand why it’s always the dysfunctional people who get off scot-free, while the innocent go down in flames.

    We really didn’t need this right before the holidays. I got about two hours sleep last night and woke to a pounding headache and a lot of anger. I’m not sure even Solomon in all his wisdom could figure out this Gordian knot. I don’t even know what to pray. No matter what answer comes back, in the eyes of some people I get to look like Pontius Pilate, Cain, and Judas all rolled up into one.

    In the immortal words of Rodney King: “Why can’t we all just get along?”

    Thanks to all for the words of encouragement.

  9. lisa

    “My wife and I just don’t understand why it’s always the dysfunctional people who get off scot-free, while the innocent go down in flames.”

    Isn’t that the truth? Sorry for this, Dan. Hope someone you can rise above it tomorrow. If not, we’re in Lexington and dinner’s at noon! You’re welcome to come on down!

  10. The third weekend in January. (I’m such a loser tonight! I’m totallly hanging out on blogs!) Starting the evening of Thurs. the 18th, to Sunday a.m. It would be great to have you.

  11. A word for you Dan that has often been a great help to me. “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” I will be praying for His peace to suround you this Thanksgiving. “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

  12. My prayers are with you for God’s wisdom in this situation.Happy Thanksgiving Dan, and may the Lord bless you and your family abundantly! psalm 23.

    Be encouraged.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *