Giving Thanks in Brokenness

Thanksgiving week is upon us once again here in America, a time to celebrate a national holiday that is 150 years old — a long time for this country! In 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed a bill declaring the final Thursday in November to be a national day of Thanksgiving. The date was fixed as the fourth Thursday in 1941 by President Franklin Roosevelt and has been that way ever since. This year, that date is the 22nd, ironically, also my father’s birthday. That means extra celebration in the Newton family.

Today, the 18th, many churches across the country are having Thanksgiving celebrations and/or meals. For many churches, the all-church feast is the only time of year when the whole congregation gets together to fellowship over food. Thus, it is a very special day. My church is having a meal/worship service this morning. If not for illness, I’d be there with them. But, alas, it was not to be today. My parents go to a church that is having a sharing service — a time for people to tell what they are thankful for and share their joys with their siblings in Christ.

I usually enjoy sharing times (not everyone does) because I get to see how God is working in the lives of people around me. He does some amazing things! Every now and then a person will share something that just makes me plain uncomfortable. It’s a darker story, of loss and sadness, pain and brokenness, things that aren’t very fun but have been, in some way, redeemed by God over the past year. I remember one year long ago a man shared about his brokenness — an affair and divorce that ripped his family apart. He broke down and cried as he spoke, telling how much he had learned about pride and pain that year. It was hard to hear! But then he started to bring his story into the light. Counseling and contrition, the love of brothers and sisters in the church, the care and wisdom of one of our pastors, a new resolve to be a better man, father, and follower of God. In his darkness, it seemed, he encountered God and was fully broken so that he might be forever healed. For this lesson he was thankful, though his actions had cost him his marriage and respect from his children.

Brokenness. It’s a word that people so often want to avoid. I know I do. But it must be faced head-on and understood before we can grow up in our lives. It doesn’t have to be divorce or relationship-related. It could be sickness, a wandering for purpose, or financial loss. It could be anything that has caused you pain — mental, emotional, physical, or spiritual. It is a basic condition of mankind after Adam’s sin. Adam and Eve went from perfect, complete, imperishable to mortal, malicious and messed-up. Their race has suffered every since.

But God offers something that turns brokenness around: reconciliation, restoration and relationship. He is the Healer. And for that, we can give great thanks. One idea of God that this world doesn’t “get” is the idea of God as a restorer of broken things. Jesus came to walk this earth, preaching, “the kingdom of God has come near” and then immediately went about restoring brokenness. Healing the sick and crippled, giving sight to the blind, casting out demons — setting the world right, as He created it to be. But does the world know that Jesus came to restore the broken and free those in spiritual (and emotional) bondage? Do they care?

If they realize they are broken, they’ll care — if they’re told about Him.

Part of the brokenness of this world is a proficiency of twisting the truth. Sin and Satan and his powers of darkness tell us lies — manipulations of truth — to keep us broken, destitute and in pain. But those who believe in Jesus Christ are not children of lies but of the truth and it is our charge to share the truth with all men, breaking down the lies, and revealing a God who brings restoration in love. The God who longs for relationship. The God who sent His Son to create a bridge for strangers and enemies to become family through simple faith in Him and the sacrifice He made for them.

Give thanks for brokenness, for it reveals our deep need for God, but also for the healing He provides. Give thanks for the Healer who seeks a relationship with you. And walk with His Spirit, telling others about the great things He has done for you.

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