22 November 2021

Dear Readers:

Aunt Sevvy is busy this week getting ready to gather loved ones around her—as are many of you. Though she’s running in circles, she’s grateful she gets to do nice things for these people she loves.

Not every November has been so happy for Aunty. There have been years when she’s had to be alone for the holidays, for all kinds of reasons. There have been other years when there were bad and sad things happening, that made it hard to feel grateful.

Maybe some of you Aunt Sevvy readers are feeling that.

Aunty came across a lovely essay on the blog of a thoughtful pastor named Vinnie MacIsaac, of the Solid Rock Adventist Church in Arlington, Virginia. He calls it, “When Thankfulness Is A Broken Whisper.” Aunty thinks you’ll agree it’s worth sharing.

We teach our people to say, “God is good, all the time, and all the time God is good!”

We call on the congregation to raise their hands in praise, to clap, to rejoice.

Even our most conservative churches can at least get a hearty “Amen!,” right?

We read Bible verses publicly in worship this time of year that can leave no doubt regarding how good we have it:

Praise the Lord, all nations!
Extol him, all peoples!
For great is his steadfast love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.
Praise the Lord! (Ps 117:1-2)

At home, we have family holiday traditions like going around the table and each person saying what they are thankful for this year. I love that, because I actually have things to be thankful about in my life, and I love to share the joys of my experience with others. 

But I wonder how people feel in those moments who legitimately don’t have anything to be thankful for?

A number of Thanksgivings ago my wife was lying near death in a hospital bed from multiple strokes—with no sign of a diagnosis, much less a cure. I was by her bedside for days on end, with nothing changing. Her blood flow to her brain got so critically low that she had aphasia: she could not remember words, forgot my name, eventually forgot who I was, and reverted to being like a mere confused child. There was nothing I could do to help. 

Was God any less good then? Theologically I know that God is “the same yesterday and today and forever.” However, I assure you, that had you come waltzing into the hospital room and belted out, “God is good all the time.” And expected me to reply, “And all the time God is good!” you might have gotten a rather shocking reply from a pastor.

I am always struck by how we selectively pick psalms of Thanksgiving from David at this time of year, yet pass right by his darker cries of desperation, pleas for  healing and forgiveness, that flood his psalms. 

And so, for those who are at where I have been, I want to say: it’s ok to be too hurt, too broken, too tired. It’s OK to not “feel the cheer of this time of the year!” 

Instead of forcing people to find reasons to be thankful around your table this year, why not instead, tell them just how thankful you are just to have them at the table? We have lost so much, so many, over these last few years during the pandemic. Let us not forget Jesus meets us at our hurts, our struggles, and our needs. He is incarnate with our pain, and he walks that path with us.

David also tells us,

I, the Lord, will be with you in that trouble. …
When the righteous cry out, and the Lord Yahweh hears them;
He delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord Yahweh is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 91:15, 34:17-18)

Stop trying to get the brokenhearted to shout out praises, and spread cheer when what they need is to shed tears. Maybe for them it’s like the Leonard Cohen song,

And love is not a victory march
It’s a cold and it’s a broken “Hallelujah”

The path to a “Hallelujah!” may have to start with a cold broken whisper.

Hold tight. It’s OK. Don’t let go. Yahweh will be with you in your trouble. He does not walk away when you can’t utter words of thanksgiving at the holiday table. It is enough for Him that you come to His table, even if just with a whisper of faith. If that is all you’ve got, you have everything! Hold on to the cold, broken praise. You might be crushed, bruised, and weeping, but God dwells in the midst of your pain He holds you up and, in the end, leads you to the whispered, “Hallelujah.”

Thank you, Pastor MacIsaac!

You can write to Aunt Sevvy at DearAuntSevvy@gmail.com. Please keep questions or comments short. What you send us at this address won’t necessarily be, but could be, published — always without identification of the writer. Aunt Sevvy writes her own column, and her opinions are not necessarily those of Adventist Today’s editors.

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