I love Thanksgiving. I love the stuffing, the turkey, the pumpkin pie, the leftovers. I love the wine, the laughter, the family. I love watching my beloved Lions lose year after year, often in spectacularly self-sabotaging fashion. This year will be no different for me and my family.
But I know many people who have abbreviated or no plans at all. It makes me sad, not because I don’t respect their caution, but because it feels like the true spirit behind a good-ole fashion American Thanksgiving has been stripped. Every Thanksgiving I remember has been celebrated with a spirit of abundance and blessing. But this year is different. Very different. We have suffered loss: some have lost financially, some have lost loved ones, some have lost educational opportunities, some have lost faith in their church, some have lost the simple freedom to walk around in public with their faces uncovered. So the thought of “cancelling” Thanksgiving seems like it’s indicative of a world that feels there is no more abundance and blessing to celebrate.
Don’t get me wrong, those who have “cancelled” their extended Thanksgiving plans are not necessarily thankless. A small gathering can still give a great amount of thanks (remember Snoopy and Woodstock shared a meal between just the two of them). I just mean it is not a given that the shelved holiday plans are irrespective of dejected feelings of loss. Helpless, dejected, attacked, wondering when the last straw will crack your final nerve. It is probably easier just to hunker down and wait for the holidays to pass.
However, in such melancholy it is all the more necessary for us to give thanks. When King Saul lay in wait for David in Ramah, David had ample reason to despair. He was unfairly chased, unjustly hunted, and his suffering was unprovoked. Yet instead of despairing, he wrote Psalm 59.
Psalm 59 is an imprecatory Psalm, meaning it invokes God to bring judgement and justice upon one’s enemies. It is a cry for help, a clenched-teeth Psalm of frustration and anger. But it ends, as most imprecatory Psalms do, with tremendous praise and glory due to the God who does not leave us in bitter despair:
“But I will sing of your strength;
I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning.
For you have been to me a fortress
and a refuge in the day of my distress.
O my Strength, I will sing praises to you,
for you, O God, are my fortress,
the God who shows me steadfast love.”
By earthly standards, we did nothing to provoke a deadly virus. We did not ask to lose our jobs. We did not deserve to be locked in our homes. We did not ask to be harshly criticized by everyone around us who thinks we “aren’t doing our part.” We did not pay tuition to end up with homeschooling. We did not sign up for endless Zoom meetings, reminding that one guy yet again to unmute his microphone. And I still can’t breathe with this stupid thing on my face. (Yes, I know it’s supposed to be all the way over my nose; stop reminding me!)
But even in my frustration, anger, and teeth-clenched prayers for this nightmare to end, I am thankful. I am thankful for the God who gives an abundance out of poverty, blessings out of curses, salvation out of death. I am thankful to Christ my fortress, my refuge in the day of my distress. I will sing praises to him of his strength, of his steadfast love, and give thanks. Join me.