Our ancestors made great sacrifices coming to a new country for religious freedom. Many not making it through that first winter. Frigid weather. Lack of food. Sickness. Death all around them. Friends. Neighbors. Loved ones too precious to let go, but they had no choice.
They came here to worship the Lord in freedom, and found out what it means to freely worship the Lord. To freely praise him in the midst of hardship. To freely lift their voices during times of tragedy. To freely cry out in grief asking for his help as they thanked him that they could do so without fear of retribution.
To unbelievers, it makes no sense to be thankful during hard times. To praise the Lord in the midst of sadness. To reach out to him during times of trouble. To have joy in the midst of tragedy. And yet, that’s the topsy turvy world of the New Testament. God the Father saw his creation with such incredible love that he made a direct way for us to no longer be separated from him. He sent his only son, Jesus, here to be born a human baby. Immanuel. God with us. Walking among us. Loving us. Teaching us. Suffering for us. Dying for us. Beating death for us. Ascending to Heaven but not leaving us alone.
Jesus tells his disciples, “Very truly I tell you, it is good for you that I am going away. Unless I go away the Advocate will not come; but if I go I will send him to you” (John 16:7).
So Jesus, God with us, leaves the Holy Spirit to dwell inside of us believers. The Holy Spirit is God within is. That’s why we can have joy when we’re grief-stricken. God himself is our comforter, giving us hope when there is no hope. When we’re afraid and don’t know how to ask for help, the Holy Spirit prays to the Father for us. He’s our intercessor with the wisdom to know what we should be praying. “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26).
That’s the world that we who love the Lord live in. It’s not an easy world, especially as the world around us changes, becoming less tolerant of Christians. But it’s a world that we’d never trade for anything else.
If you find yourself alone this Thanksgiving even though you’re surrounded by people. If you’re missing someone very special in your life. Maybe it’s your first or second or 30th Thanksgiving without them. If you’re in pain and wonder how you can go on the way your life is. Don’t be afraid to step out in faith and ask for help. Ask the God of creation to send someone to help you. To show you the way. To walk beside you. To simply be a friend.
Nine years ago, my church asked to hold a fundraiser for my husband, Dave, for medical costs. At first he said, “Absolutely not.” An independent person, he was the one who’d help someone else, not the other way around. You have to let go of your pride to allow others to help you. That’s not an easy thing for any of us to do.
But I told Dave something that I believe came from the Holy Spirit. I said, “It’s a gift to allow someone to help you. It’s a gift to them.” And it is. To allow yourself to be vulnerable. To allow others to see your need and then to allow them to help you is a gift to yourself and also to them. You’re humbled and thankful for their giving and they’re thankful to give. It’s the true sense of Thanks Giving.
If you’re happy and content that life’s going well, don’t be afraid to step out in faith and help another person. Invite someone to be a part of your family. Include them as one of your own. Not only for Thanksgiving but all year long.
“Jesus answered him, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him’” (John 14:23).
This Thanksgiving, make your home with the Lord and you’ll never spend another Thanksgiving alone. And even though times may be hard as they were for the Pilgrims, you’ll always have a spirit of thankfulness within you because the Holy Spirit has made a home within you.
Kathy Yoder is a devotional writer. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.