Being Thankful When Life Hurts


This Thanksgiving I have a heavy heart as I recall all the horrendous crimes and suffering going on in the world. I keep catching myself trying to enjoy some material good God has allowed me to have and being struck with pain for those who go without such a luxury.

Last night my son woke up at midnight and sleepily found his way to the kitchen where I was cleaning up a treat we made to surprise the kids with in the morning. He was warm and snug in his footie pajamas and burrowed into me. I showed him the treat and asked if he wanted to try a bit and then head back to bed. His face lit up and he put his chubby little arms around my neck with a smile as he clutched his snack.

I just held him – overwhelmed with a thousand contradictory feelings all at once.

Am I blessed to have this? A warm house, clean children, enough to spare to offer a midnight snack without worry? I’m certainly thankful for it. But if that’s the definition of blessed, what does that make those waking up to the sound of bombs? Are the poor hidden in a dirt floored hut deep in a jungle less blessed because they can’t offer a clean glass of water at a midnight wake up?

I had to hide my tears from my son as I held in my heart the mothers that daily bear pain more than I can fathom because they don’t have the luxuries we have. Where is God’s blessing and abundance in their lives? How do they give thanks in such extreme suffering? 

Don’t read me wrong here – I’m not abusing the plight of the poor to declare myself doubly blessed because I don’t go through their material sufferings and then going on my merry way.  This is something deeper.

It made me ask the hard question – am I thankful in all the moments, both good and ridiculously difficult?  Do I live the truth that God’s care and providence doesn’t always mean safe housing and cars? Do I give thanks when it hurts?

In all honesty, no. I find myself struggling when finances are tight. I’m grumpy and anxious when the kids are sick. Rarely do I take time to deliberatily thank God in those moments. But I should.

It’s easy to thank God and declare a blessed life when you can pay the bills, food is in abundance, and basic needs are met. In my experience, it’s harder to give thanks at difficult times.

This Thanksgiving, instead of declaring myself blessed for all the material things in my life, I’m going to thank God for it all. Good and hard. And pray for the ones giving thanks faithfully even in the midst of extreme suffering and want. (They are stronger than I.)

When the pie burns, thank You God. When the kid pukes up his turkey, thank You God. When the battery in the van dies, thank You God. When things don’t go as I plan, thank You God. Thank You because I know that even when life hurts, You are still God and that is always a reason to be thankful.

“…every event and need can become an offering of thanksgiving. The letters of St. Paul often begin and end with thanksgiving, and the Lord Jesus is always present in it: ‘Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you’; ‘Continue steadfastly in prayers, being watchful in it with thanksgiving” (CCC 2638).

Comment below, what are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?

What are your thoughts? I'd love to hear from you!