Thanksgiving,a time we share with family and friends. A time we gather together to enjoy a big meal and then fall asleep watching parades and football. A time we laugh together, hug each other and talk about the countless things, we are grateful for.
But for many, this particular year is one that will stand out from others. For many, the gatherings will not be happening. There will not be the hugs. There will not even be parades.
Celebrating a holiday of thanksgiving can be quite challenging when one does not really feel that much like celebrating. For many, the sharing of gratitude is a challenge. One that seems almost futile. A person can feel a bit pressured or even guilty this time of year if they are not bubbly with joy and gratefulness.
While there are always things to be grateful for, it may be difficult to focus on them when we find ourselves experiencing other feelings. It isn’t always easy to count blessings when we are feeling grief, or sadness or worry, or anger or any of the other countless emotions we are capable of experiencing.
These are complicated times. And we are complicated people with feelings that cannot just be turned off or pushed aside. When we feel something, simply put, we feel it.
There is a story in the bible that contains one of the shortest verses in all of scripture. In the NRSV translation of the bible, John 11:35 simply reads, “Jesus began to weep.”
The story surrounding this verse is that Jesus had been told a friend of his had died. After arriving in the village of Bethany, he is informed by his friend’s two sisters that their brother Lazarus had died four days earlier.
Jesus was not only aware of this; he knew he was coming to Bethany to raise his friend Lazarus from the dead. He knew that he was there to perform a great miracle. He knew a beautiful blessing was about to take place. In just moments, his friend Lazarus would be living again and many people would be rejoicing and praising God.
And yet Jesus wept.
The answer is really pretty simple. Jesus wept, because that is what Jesus felt.
Yes, there were blessings and things to be thankful for, but right then, at that moment, Jesus felt like weeping. Even in knowing his friend would soon rise, he still felt grief over his death. He also felt great empathy for the many who had been in mourning for the past four days.
This might sound a bit confusing at first. Why, when so near a happy occasion, would Jesus feel a sense of grief and sadness?
Again, simply put. Because that is what Jesus felt. Jesus could not just turn off or put his feelings aside. Nor did he ever want to.
If Jesus felt something, he felt it. He expressed it. He shared it.
We can too.
Rather than encouraging us all to just focus on just gratitude this holiday, I would also encourage us all to focus on the other feelings we are experiencing. If we are feeling happy, feel it. If we are feeling sad, feel it. If we are feeling angry, feel it. If we are grieving, grieve. If we feel like weeping, weep.
Jesus knew that happiness was just around the corner. But he knew that, in order to experience it fully, he had to deal with the other feelings he was experiencing first.
What we can learn from Jesus is that it is okay to feel our feelings. And it is also important that we share our feelings.
When Jesus wept, he made no attempt to cover, hide, or ignore what he was feeling. All of the people around Jesus knew what he was feeling because he expressed it and shared it.
We can feel thankful for the many happy things in our lives. And we can also be thankful for the ability to share all of the feelings we have and will experience in our lives. We can be grateful for Christ, who teaches through example, that it is okay to express our emotions.
This season, as with all others, I invite you to feel what you feel and to share what you feel. And I encourage you to find comfort in expressing your honest self.
After all, it is your honest self, that we are truly thankful for.
Pastor Trever Rook