Thanksgiving Songs (and Sighs)

There’s something about November. So much to love: turkey, family gatherings, pumpkin-flavored everything. I love pumpkin! We have three family birthdays this month—two grandchildren and our daughter. And I do love birthdays. I also love the giving of thanks. Over the years, November has become for me a month—not just a day—of giving thanks. God seems to remind me continually of how many blessings I have to count. And everyone knows how good giving thanks is for the soul. 

But there’s another side to November. It’s getting darker. Soon we will turn the clocks back and it will get even darker. It’s getting colder. And for us in New England lately, a whole lot wetter; a recent forecast showed only one sunny day out of ten.

It’s also a hard month—very hard—in the lives of many I know and love. A family has buried their precious 13-year-old daughter. Friends have new diagnoses. And many I know are simply, though not easily, living out the title I mentioned last month: A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

Last Sunday in church we sang Chris Tomlin’s “Good Good Father.” As I sang, I found myself wondering how singing those words felt to friends walking through unspeakable grief. And suddenly I was taken back to a fall Sunday when I stood in the back of another church, long ago and far away in Texas, while the congregation sang a different chorus: “God is so good, God is so good, God is so good, He’s so good to me. … He answers prayer … He loves me so …” It was my first Sunday back at church after a devastating miscarriage which held the potential of malignancy. The long-awaited pregnancy which had seemed like a nearly miraculous answer to prayer had turned into a crushing loss. 

As the church family sang, I stood and wondered: “God, what part of ‘good’ am I not understanding? And answering prayer—did you hear all those pleas and prayers ascending? And loving me so? Strange way of showing it. …” But I also reminded myself of what I believed—and still believe: God is indeed good. Very good. All the time. He does answer prayer—though not necessarily in the ways we wish for. And He does love me so. These things I knew and believed. In my head. But my heart had a long way to go.

I’ve been thinking about those two songs—and two church services—a lot since Sunday.  How do I know these things—God’s goodness, God’s love, God’s hearing our prayers—to be true? Even in the midst of conflicting and confusing circumstances?  Because He says so. In His Word.

In my daily readings this week I came across two verses that I had never really noticed in Psalm 119. In verse 49 the Psalmist says: “Remember your word to [me], in which you have made me hope” (ESV). In the NKJV this reads: “you have given me hope.” And where does this hope come from? Verse 54: “Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojourning.”

Hope! That’s it! God’s Word is good and true and it gives us Hope. Future Hope, yes. Hope of Heaven, yes. Hope of an outrageously joyful eternity with Him—and with all those we love and have lost. But it also gives us His continual presence, His comfort, His sustaining strength for the “right now.”  In other words, that anchor the writer of Hebrews talks about: “. . . we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, sure and secure.” (Hebrews 6:18–19)

And this anchor holds in the midst of storms. In the midst of disappointment and heartbreak. In the midst of lament. For, in the words of Rend Collective in their song “Weep with Me,” “What’s true in the dark is still true in the light / You’re good and you’re kind and you care for this heart / Lord I believe / You weep with me.” Ah, yes. God cares for the heart even as He reminds the head of what is true. Reason for thanks-giving indeed!  

I leave you with a few words from one last song—an “oldie but goodie” we sang in the early days of Mom to Mom. I hope you’ll all join the sweet group of moms who sang together long ago in a gym that no longer exists: “Give thanks, with a grateful heart. Give thanks to the Holy One. Give thanks, because He’s given Jesus Christ, his Son . . . and now, let the weak say ‘I am strong,’ let the poor say ‘I am rich’ because of what the Lord has done for me. Give thanks . . .”

Giving thanks along with each of you for our great and good God . . . Happy Thanksgiving month!