We have a praise service at our church before Thanksgiving–a blessed time of reflection. It is always a joy to hear grateful voices raised to God.
But it is the suffering ones whose praise rings loudest.
The grieving, the lonely, the ill. The disappointed and sorrowing. Those who have come through a severe storm or deep, dark waters.
That praise is a lovely song, a sweet aroma. That praise is a gift and a light.
A buoy for weary pilgrims to hold.
How can we doubt God’s work when we see His grace displayed so lavishly in failing humans? What a wonder is the Spirit’s real and individual dealing in the minds and hearts of those who suffer!
That kind of praise quenches our doubt with refreshing water. Renews our hope and strengthens our hands.
Ignites the flickering flame when our hearts are growing cold.
I remember the Thanksgiving of 2016. Marissa and I were living in Durham during her radiation treatment. We planned on leaving right after her appointment on Wednesday morning so we could make it home in time for the praise service at church that night. But her doctors planned another appointment, and we didn’t end up getting home until after 9.
We were exhausted–physically and mentally and spiritually. We had been invited to eat Thanksgiving dinner at my nephew’s house, but all we wanted was rest and home. I went to bed without one preparation for the next day. No turkey in the house. No pies. No side dishes chilling in the fridge. No plan but sleep.
But I slept well and woke early. I drove to the nearest grocery store to see if they had fresh turkeys. They did and that somehow spurred me on. I began to walk around the empty store and fill my cart with good things for my family to eat.
I remember that morning with such clarity. I don’t know that I have ever felt God’s presence so strongly as I did in the aisles of that store. As I filled the cart, He was filling my heart. He was renewing my song, reminding me of His faithfulness. He was strengthening me for the days ahead.
We had a quiet Thanksgiving that year. It was Marissa’s last one on this earth, but of course we didn’t know that then. The next few weeks would bring us into the last, terrifying battle.
But early on that Thanksgiving day and in all the days ahead, He provided everything I needed. He saw me in my weakness, and He answered my cry. He was with me in trouble.
He was teaching me right there in the grocery store to trust in Him.
He was drawing me to worship, enabling me to praise.
Bless the LORD, all you works of His, in all places of His dominion; Bless the LORD, O my soul! Psalm 103:22
For the LORD is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations. Psalm 100:5
We give thanks to you, O God; we give thanks, for your name is near. We recount your wondrous deeds. Psalm 75:1