Here it is.
That time of year when we gather around and count our blessings.
Sure, we are thankful for things in other moments throughout our year, but now we are just hours from that set day when we stop and give thanks.
This last Sunday at church we took a few minutes to share what we were thankful for in 2013. Anyone who wanted to could stand and say a few words to express what had brought them joy in the last year of their life.
In those minutes I found myself where I am most every Sunday: up on the platform, behind a piano, microphone only inches from my lips. We had just sang praises to God together and would continue to do so after the next few minutes passed. I saw different people stand and speak, several of my siblings included.
I had been thinking of what I would say. Angry, grieved thoughts crowded me. What was I thankful for, really?
I have a great family and a wonderful husband... yes, that was true. But what about the rest?
What, God? What am I supposed to thank You for this year?
For my husband's job that leaves him so exhausted and even sick? For the hurt in my heart that won't seem to leave? For the fourteen months we had to wait for a baby? For that precious baby being taken away from me even as I prayed- as I cried and begged- that I would be allowed to keep it? For the loneliness, the fear, the hopes denied? For what I can honestly say has been the hardest year of my life?
I raised my hand and said what felt like worn-out words to me after the last few months, "I'm thankful that the Lord knows what is best. I'm thankful that He understands, comforts, and strengthens."
Because I know, even though at times I struggle to truly believe those so-many-time-repeated words, that it is true.
And I know that it is true because of His love for me. And He does love me. So, so much more than I could ever love anyone.
Because, you see, I would never have willingly given up my baby.
My child, who I had never even met, was more precious to me than anything. Even if the world depended on it, I would have shook my head and said, "Sorry, you are on your own. I won't give up my child for you.".
"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16
Probably the most well-known verse from the Bible, but I never stopped to think what it really said... not this way. Sure, I've pondered on the great love of God for His creation and the incredible sacrifice Jesus made on the cross so we could spend eternity with Him if we only believe... but not one of the most basic things that is mentioned:
God gave up His Son. To be separated from Him. To carry sin. To die.
I. Could. Never. Do. That.
No matter who it would save, no matter what it would accomplish... I could never willingly put myself through this pain of losing my only child. And if the pain of losing my baby from my womb is this great, this blinding, this life-changing-- what kind of pain must God the Father have experienced as He turned away from God the Son?
Oh... Lord, how you love me.
"How deep the Father's love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure
How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory"
I have found a reason to give thanks. A reason that is always, always greater than any pain I could experience: God loved me enough to give His Son's life so I could be saved.
How can I not be thankful today and every day?