Thanksgiving was always my favorite holiday.
I loved everything about it: the color scheme, the food (I love, love, love to cook-it was never a burden), family and friends gathered around the table, and the wonderful slowness of the day as it lingered into nightfall.
It was more flexible than Christmas for including all sorts of folks who otherwise didn’t have someplace to go. Living near colleges meant that we welcomed students from around the world-we might have two or three dozen laughing faces milling about.
It was wonderful.
And I loved going around the circle, tummies bursting, to share what people were thankful for and why.
When Dominic left us everything changed.
Oh, I was (and still am) so very thankful for so very many things-my family, daily physical provision, ongoing care and love of friends, the enduring faithful mercy of God.
But there’s something else too: there is deep sorrow at the unavoidable FACT that when God COULD have stepped in and changed an outcome, He DIDN’T.
And I’m having to learn to open my heart to thankfulness while also bearing witness to this pain.
Praise and lament in the same breath.
I have plenty of company.
The world we live in is full of pain and suffering. Injustice reigns. We make our way through thorns and by the sweat of our brow.
It is just plain hard.
The psalmist acknowledges that. He doesn’t rush past the pain. He doesn’t gloss over the broken places.
He empties his heart of the feeling that God has forgotten. But he doesn’t stop there-he chooses to bring the emptiness back to the only One Who can fill it up again.
Like the psalmist, I’m learning that I must exhale before I can inhale.
I must admit the burden of hopelessness to make room for the blessing of hope.
“With my voice I cry out to the LORD: with my voice I plead for mercy to the LORD.”
I ADMIT I FEEL ABANDONED:
In the path where I walk
they have hidden a trap for me.
Look to the right and see:
there is none who takes notice of me;
no refuge remains to me;
no one cares for my soul.
AND YET I WILL CHOOSE TO TRUST:
I cry to you, O LORD;
I say, “You are my refuge,
my portion in the land of the living.”
IN THE HOPE THAT GOD HEARS:
Attend to my cry,
for I am brought very low!
SO THAT MY TESTIMONY MAY BE ONE OF PRAISE:
Bring me out of prison,
that I may give thanks to your name!
Psalm 142, selected
As I sit at the table, cherishing the companionship of those I love and missing the one I can no longer see, I will embrace thanksgiving and lament.
I will exhale and inhale.
I will beg for grace and mercy because I can no longer beg to be spared from sorrow.
I will ask for eyes to see and a faithful heart while I wait.
14 thoughts on “The Power of Lament to Make Room for Thanksgiving”
Thank you for this post Melanie, your words speak to my heart today. Our first Thanksgiving without our son – he left for Heaven in May just after a year battle with relapsed Leukemia. He was only 27, just engaged to be married when he died suddenly. Tonight was so hard, We were a happy family of four, Kyle was our only son so now it’s just the three of us left…. I know I will never get my answer to the why question, not until I get to Heaven. I continue to trust and love God even if I can’t understand why he did not answer our prayers
This is a constant struggle for me. I am angry that my son, Andrew, is gone, at age 21, with the world his oyster. When I hear “He’s in a better place” I just want to bash heads. His place is here with his family. Nowhere else. I cannot, for the life of me, reconcile a loving god and a god that would allow this to happen. Either god is all-powerful, but chose not to let my son live, or god is not all-powerful, and incapable of intervening. Neither god is one I want to worship, because one couldn’t care less about my shattered heart, and the shattered remnants of my former self, and my family. The other is, apparently, not a god. No one has been able to give me an adequate answer, much less any god answering me, so here I sit…
I am so very sorry for your pain and your loss. I live with the tension between the sovereignty of God and the goodness of God as well. I won’t try to “argue” you to any position, I will only say this: I firmly believe that God IS God-that He is sovereign and He is good. I have come to embrace the truth that His goodness is bigger than my life, bigger than my son’s life and bigger than anything I can comprehend or imagine. So while I cannot understand my son’s death as “good”-it is good in God’s larger plan. I’m not naive and I don’t try to add up anyone who may be “saved” because of my son’s life/death and/or my own testimony. Even if there were a thousand people that came to know Jesus because of this accident it would not soothe my pain at losing my own son. I’m too honest to pretend otherwise. But I will say this: I am absolutely certain that I will see my son again. And I am absolutely convinced that this pain will be redeemed and everything I and my family have lost will be restored.
So well said Melanie. It is so very hard to remember that, although it feels like it is, my pain is not the center of the universe. My son was not the only gorgeous young man to die. God has allowed our loss for very good reasons known only to Him. I trust that His reasons are “good enough” because I know Him and I know that everything He does is good. He would not allow us to suffer like this for no good reason – that would contradict His character. My suffering can be used to comfort others because while we are here in this world, suffering is a reality. Why should I be exempt? I can’t wait to see the culmination of His wonderful plan. The pain will seem so small in comparison – hard to imagine when one’s heart is in a million pieces – but absolutely true. Praise and lament can and do occur simultaneously. It is a terrible and wonderful experience. Thanks for the thought-provoking post.
Thank you for that reply, Melanie. The one thing that tears at me is that my son told me he’d become an atheist, even though raised as a Christian. The thought that he would be condemned to hell nearly kills me. I only get to see him again if I am also condemned to hell. I have no incentive to be a Christian… 😦
I am firmly of the belief that if one is saved, then it is impossible for anyone (including ourselves) to snatch us from the hand of Christ. And I am also convinced that the Lord answers the faintest cry even up to the moment of death from any heart. The thief crucified by Jesus only said, “Remember me when you come into Your kingdom” and Jesus replied, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise”. I understand your fear and do not in any way want to minimize it! But even with your son’s words, there is hope. Praying for you.
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I could have written those words. My 36 year old son died suddenly and unexpectedly on August 16,2022, just three months ago. I have thought and said those words many times.
We set a place for Stephanie today. It was our favorite holiday, family, laughter, and good food. I, too, prayed for a miracle and I received one. Steph was in remission 17 years from her first bout with her cancer. We prayed again this time for a second miracle when it came back more aggressive. It was not to be. Steph passed away 5 months ago. We are thankful today for all the wonderful memories we have had the past 44 years with our precious daughter and for the miracle of the last 17 years when she spent her time making the most of her life; making memories and living her life to the fullest! Today was hard.
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I’m so sorry for your pain and your loss sweet mama. I think setting a place for Stephanie was a beautiful idea.
Bless you, Melanie, for speaking what my heart is feeling today. May God be especially present at our tables today.
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I am so thankful for finding your posts… you expressed what I have been struggling with since my son died 17 months ago from cancer… I prayed so diligently for God to heal him ….but he died…. I know God could have healed him …but that wasn’t in the plan … why not? “thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven” is my new prayer…but it is so hard ….God bless you!
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Nan, I’m sorry for your loss and your pain. My son was killed instantly in an accident but I know many grieving mamas who lost children to disease and they prayed fervently, with faith, that their child would be healed. My heart hurts for you and for them. I’m thankful the posts are helpful to you- I pray that the Lord continues to strengthen you for each new day and that He overwhelms your heart with His love, grace and mercy.