An Unprecedented Thanksgiving

woman in fall forest
We can all find something to be thankful for even in these strange times, especially with Thanksgiving coming next week.

This has been a good year for memes.

Drawing on the unpredictable news headlines of 2020, sarcastic and creative memes seemed to spread faster than the news that prompted them. We circulated memes about quarantines, the election, superstorms, murder hornets, and, of course, COVID-19.

Just before we set our clocks back to end Daylight Savings a couple weeks ago, several of my social media friends posted a meme asking if we really wanted to add another hour to this year. Wouldn’t it be better to hurry ourselves along to 2021?

I get that it was just a meme, and it was funny. But behind the joke ran an undercurrent of frustration reflecting how many people feel this was a wasted year. A year to forget.

This has been a tough year, yes. But despite the ups, downs and crazies, I have learned a lot — and I know I’m not the only one.

Something to be thankful for

“I refuse to wish us into 2021,” another Facebook friend shared, referencing her kids’ growth this year and the family’s new addition born a few months ago. “This year has been all kinds of hard,” she acknowledged. “And it’s been good.”

This spring and summer I virtually attended a weekly book study in Illinois, a family reunion in Texas, and a kids’ storytime with a missionary family in Mexico — all from my home in Kansas. None of these events would have been accessible to me before 2020 and the explosion of digital opportunities.

Like many others who experienced state lockdowns and closures, I had a chance to step back and reevaluate my typical schedule when my calendar was suddenly wiped clean. Weeks spent at a more relaxed pace reminded many of us that some of our hustling and bustling isn’t even necessary — or healthy — and we took the opportunity to set new weekly routines.

We can all find something to be thankful for even in these strange times, especially with Thanksgiving coming next week. But it’s not about coming up with some good things to outweigh the bad. Our gratitude can be deeper than that.

An important question

Times like these raise an important question: How do we handle the hard stuff? If I want to wish this year away, what does that say about how badly I want to be in control? Or how little I want to reflect on the gift of each day that God grants me?

COVID-19 restrictions are hard. Visiting my grandmother at an assisted living in another state (where we have to stay six feet away while outside and wearing a mask — and never touch her) has been hard. Yet I know that many others have faced so much worse: job loss, loved ones sick and even dying in isolation, and other ripple effects we may not even realize.

There is no question that 2020 has been hard. But I don’t think we gain anything by writing off the tough years. Times like these remind us that God is at work even when we don’t understand what He is doing.

Even in 2020

When the Israelites miraculously paraded out of Egypt after 400 years of forced servitude, you would think they would be ready to forget their time in slavery. Time to move on and find a much better life, thank you.

But in Moses’ farewell address to the people of God, he told them over and over to remember. Remember what God did to rescue you, and what He rescued you from, he told them. Five times Moses said to “remember that you were a slave.” Moses didn’t think the Israelites should try to forget the last several generations. Their story would encourage countless others and point to the ultimate Savior God would later send to save His people.

This year has pushed me to look deeper at Scripture passages promising God’s presence, reminding me of countless times throughout history when He worked in surprising ways. Don’t get me wrong. I’m ready for COVID to be over — last week. But I am choosing to be thankful, because more than any other year ever, 2020 has reminded me that God is at work in the events of the world. Even when we can’t see how.

There are no words for how valuable this knowledge is. Even if the news updates prompt the oldest people I know to say, “I’ve never seen anything like this.” Even if national and international events make me dizzy with the number of record-setting reports. Even when I feel like life is spinning out of control. Out of my control.

Even then, God is sovereign.

Hope for a new year

As we approach the long-anticipated end of 2020, I know I will view New Year’s Day differently than all the other years I have waited for the Times Square ball to drop.

We don’t know what next year will bring. Of course, we’ve never known what any new year will bring, but this year we realize it more fully. It may be that 2021 will bring more insecurity. Indecision. Surprises. Dare I say it, maybe even something unprecedented. I admit I am a little hesitant, and a little less eager to greet the new year with open arms.

But then again, I am ready for it. Bring it on. Because whatever 2021 will hold, our God is sovereign over all of it. He promises to work it out for our good.

For that, I’m grateful.

Copyright 2020 Lauren Dunn. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

Lauren Dunn
Lauren Dunn

Lauren Dunn is a freelance writer who has lived most of her life in Wichita, Kan., but still regularly gets lost when driving around town. She loves stories (especially the good ones), ice cream (chocolate chip cookie dough), and playing the ukulele (but only songs with the three chords she knows). You can read more of her thoughts at her blog, StoriedHope.

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