It’s a few weeks before Thanksgiving, and I am thankful my family is coming to visit! I am thankful I can get out my mother’s china and polish the silver and set a beautiful table for lots of people I love. I am thankful there are little children who will be running around, pulling the dog’s tail, playing with my children’s outgrown toys. I am thankful we have a comfortable home in which to welcome everyone and plenty of food to share. I am thankful for my friends, my health, and my family’s health, the beauty of the world, my country and my heritage. Most of us have much for which to be thankful.

But I seldom hear people give thanks for their troubles. I know we will give thanks around our table without mentioning our bouts with sickness, death, surgeries, moves, job uncertainty, and hopefully politics! We want to gather together and give thanks for the good. We quietly try to fix the bad ourselves. We close our hearts and remove ourselves. Sometimes we try to find meaning in our suffering by doing things for other people. But sometimes we hurt so badly we can’t. And we might wonder if God even knows our troubles – we wonder if He is paying attention or if He could have possibly forgotten us.

During this time of Thanksgiving, I will polish silver and chop celery, but my mind will be focused on another family who waits for the hour they must say good-bye to their child – the time is drawing near. I know that kind of pain. I know that devastation and emptiness that draws you down to brokenness and despair. So it seems rather pedantic to me this year to simply run through the “thankful” list without spending a little time on the one to whom we give thanks – God himself. I am reminded of the verse in Job where he questions “Do we thank God in only the good times? Should we not thank Him in the bad times?” I think he said something like “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

How do we do that when our hearts are breaking?

I am not so far along in my own grief that I don’t still feel the sting of loss like others who are now walking this road. It all comes back too real. But in my own effort to “find meaning in the suffering” I ran across a book that provided some encouragement. Mack Stokes, author of Talking With God says “When amid suffering and grief, we open our souls to him in prayer, we receive at least four blessings of importance.”

As I study that quote, I see there is a condition for those blessings – opening our souls to him in prayer. How do we do that? We quiet our hearts, block out the world and listen for a still, small voice. And when we work to hear the voice of God, we find those blessings. Here are the blessings. I am glad to know that he said “at least four”. Maybe there are hundreds.

1. Despite our problems, when we open our souls to him in prayer, we become profoundly aware of God’s presence. He says that the weaker and more inadequate we are, the stronger God’s presence becomes and then we know that God will never leave us for forsake us.

2. Despite our suffering, when we open our souls to him in prayer, we become profoundly aware of the vastness of God’s far-reaching capabilities; it is one thing to know he goes with us through life and death, but another to experience the mysterious far-reaching ranges of his love.

3. Despite our pain and uncertainties, when we open our souls to him in prayer, we discover and new appreciation for others and the role they play in being used by the Holy Spirit to comfort and hold us. In turn, we learn how to love others.

4. Despite our loss, when we open our souls to him in prayer, God opens up a new vision for us where we can move. It might not be right away – it might take some time, but God makes us aware of others and gives us opportunities to heal and grow. He gives us new possibilities.

“When we open our souls to him in prayer,” amazing things happen:

God will never leave me.

God’s love for me is vast, mysterious and far-reaching.

God holds my hands through the use of others who are obedient to Him.

God has a plan for me and provides new possibilities.

This Thanksgiving, open your heart to some amazing blessings.

Marcia Gaddis 2011

Marcia Gaddis

Marcia Gaddis is the author of the award-winning book, When God Comes Near, published in 2010. She writes a weekly column for her blog, The Olive Branch, and has been writing for three years. New in her craft, she began writing an online journal when her 25-year old daughter was diagnosed with the rare and fatal Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. The journal became a book that offers hope and healing to those who choose to read a painful story. At the 2011 Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference in Asheville, North Carolina, her first non-fiction book was awarded three distinguished awards: First Place for Inspiration, The Selah Book of the Year Award and the Director's Choice Award for 2011. She has worked as a Home Economist for the University of Georgia and as the co-host for the gardening television show Backyard America. She attends Peachtree Road United Methodist Church in Atlanta and serves on the board of Kindred Spirit, a non-profit program for pregnant young women in Atlanta. She is married with two adult children and and tries to write and work in her garden every day.

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