Thanksgiving. The time of the year to reflect on all that we are thankful for. Yet, for some reason, this year my heart is quite burdened. While I truly am grateful for so much in my life, my heart can’t seem to break free of bearing the burden of so many close to us that are traversing through challenging times. Cancer, illness, wayward children, suicide, financial hardships, addiction, bitter relationships…and all of that is just within the walls of my circle of friends. Mingle in the sinful, divisive climate that bathes our society, and you have cause to feel the weight of the world.
So this Thanksgiving I will allow myself to feel that weight because for many, bearing those feelings are not optional. For many the Thanksgiving table will not be filled with frivolity and laughter, love and kindness. It may be filled with a void…the memory of a loved one no longer there. It may be filled with discord and strife as battling or distant spouses attempt to share a meal in civility. The table may be sparse as finances allow for little or nothing. For some the table may be empty and loneliness its only dinner guest. Thanksgiving may be celebrated in a hospital bed or in the stillness of a cemetery with eyes fixated on a tombstone.
The reality is that we live in a world full of hurting people, and far too often, we turn a blind eye, and choose not to notice, or worse, choose not to care. Burdens and hurts, sorrows and uncertainty, do not simply fade away simply because the calendar calls for a day of Thanksgiving. In all honesty I’ve heard far too many people, including believers, simply tell hurting people that they need to focus their attention on the things that they can be thankful for. That they simply need to take their eyes off of their problems. And while, yes, people should try to do so, those platitudes and empty and unsolicited words of “encouragement” are anything but.
Holidays often bring hurt and sadness to their height and are the times where people sink into the lowest of lows. It is no coincidence that suicide rates typically rise during the coming months. And while we may not be able to erase the sorrow or correct the ills, surely we can offer more. More than the simple words, “I’ll be praying for you.” While consistent prayer is vitally important, it must be married with practical expressions of love and care. Ah, but who wants a burdened heart, especially on Thanksgiving? Dare I say that it is through the burdened heart that we are moved to act.
The Bible surely speaks to this point:
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?
1 John 3:17
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
Matthew 25: 34-40
So on these days prior to Thanksgiving, will you allow your eyes and heart to be inclined to those around you who are hurting? And more importantly, will you prayerfully consider how you may shine the light of Christ on these souls? Open up your home, set an extra place setting, make that phone call, embrace the hurting, acknowledge their sorrow, cry with them, and just love on them as Christ has so lavishly done for us.