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  • Writer's pictureRichard Parrish

A Different Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day will be different this year.

Television anchors caution us to limit the number of people we have in our homes to celebrate Thanksgiving. They stress that we make sure to keep appropriate distancing, wear masks, and frequently wash our hands.

Thanksgiving Day will be different for Vicki and me, as well. I’ll miss having my 98-year-old mother-in-law at our home.

Each year, Betty (my mother-in-law) has been a regular part of our Thanksgiving Day. It won’t be the same without her laughter and the mutual teasing we share. I’ll miss seeing Bill, a Veteran friend who has joined us for Thanksgiving for several years.

Vicki will take Thanksgiving dinner to her mom, spend the day with her. I’ll stay at home with the dogs — no need to feel sorry for me. Believe me: I’ll enjoy feasting on Turkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy, and indulging in some sweets that taste better than they are healthy for me. But this Thanksgiving will be different.

Holidays are always hard when you’ve lost a loved one. But COVID has put a distinctive twist on 2020. We’ll do our best to smile, give thanks, and appreciate all that we have – and for those we no longer have.

Like it or not, we will adapt.

Many of our family members will connect via Zoom, Skype, or Messenger. It’s not the same as sitting around the table, but it allows us to express our love and gratitude for each other and the blessings we do have.

Psalm 107:1 encourages us to give thanks to the LORD:

“Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!”

The psalmist recalls how some had wandered in desert wastelands, longing for a city to dwell in, but they couldn’t find a dwelling place. He recalls how they were hungry and thirsty and how their very soul fainted within them (vs. 4-5).

“…their soul fainted within them.” As I reflect on these words, I cannot help but recognize how many today connect with “soul fatigue.” But the differences, sadness, and loss we may experience do not have to prevent us from giving thanks to the LORD.

I’m amazed at the resilience of people. In times of great misery, anxiety, and desolation, Israel cried to the LORD:

“Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He led them by a straight way till they reached a city to dwell in.” (vs. 6-7)

We’re not the first people who’ve experienced trouble. We won’t be the last. There’s much to learn from those who have suffered and struggled. Just like Israel, who faced uncertainty, peril, and heartache, we too can call upon the LORD in our troubles.

When we redirect our focus from our problems to God, we discover a vision of a future that moves us from hopelessness to HOPE. It’s that vision of HOPE, inspired by God, that makes suffering people willing to trust, hang in there, and take risks to create a more just world.

By yielding to God’s Spirit, we avail ourselves of a power that inspires us not only to endure but to transcend a sense of victimization. We’re no longer helpless, but HOPEFUL!

By looking for God in distressing times, confidence displaces anxiety, and direction forward is possible because God leads us. And, as a result, we choose to “…thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to [us, his children].”

Peoples’ resilience is astonishing. But God’s faithfulness and steadfast love that rescues us is even more remarkable.

Yes, it’s safe to say that this year has been challenging for many. You may not like what’s happening. You may feel as if your soul is fainting. Although suffering is not something any of us desire, God longs to meet us, rescue us, and lead us.

No matter how different your Thanksgiving is this year: the consistent faithfulness of God remains steadfast. You can count on it.

Hopefully, most of us will find a way to satisfy our appetites with our favorite delicacies around the table. But my prayer is that each of us will discover how God satisfies the longing soul and how he fills our hungry soul with good things (vs.9).

Thanksgiving Day may be different this year, but my thanksgiving remains the same. I’m thankful for you, and I’m grateful for God’s steadfast love.

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