Thankful in Trial

November 23, 2020 · by Whitney Gothra

Can we all just agree that Thanksgiving this year is a little ... odd?

From governors restricting the amount of family members allowed to meet under one roof, to virtual family dinners, to the cancellation of Thanksgiving week church conferences, to travel bans, to ... you get it. Traditions are being reworked, plans are being held loosely, and most people are throwing up their Christmas decorations, ready to see this year end and a new (maybe more hopeful?) year begin.

Amidst the chaos and uncertainty and turbulence, how do we mark Thanksgiving? How do we celebrate it when it just looks so different?

Earlier this summer I was home and noticed some extra traffic and cars pulling over on our street. I went to the window and immediately saw a local business being ravaged by a fire. The little shop was being consumed at an unbelievable rate, and the flames were roaring higher and higher, singeing nearby homes and trees. The smoke billowed up in waves and then was blown across the sky in thick clouds by the wind.

And yet ...

The smoke was mesmerizing as the sun kept bursting through the thick billows. My grass that was earlier bathed in pure sunlight looked as if it were dancing as the sun and smoke moved together to make rippling shadows.

The fire that was pure destruction, burning down ceilings and melting walls, was also creating such beauty as its shadows moved over our town. The vibrant sun had always been there -- the bright rays had been shining all day -- but I didn’t notice them until the smoke clouds moved in. I didn’t notice the brilliance until its absence. The sun’s beauty was made even more visible in the contrast of the dancing shadows.

I feel the same here, now. The week of Thanksgiving. Our world is facing trials unlike any we’ve faced before. Our neighbors are mourning. Our families are dealing with destruction. Our plans and good intentions have been flipped upside down and shaken, and we’re left trying to fit the pieces together.

And yet ...

The feeling of God’s presence ushering in when I lift my hands in worship has never felt more powerful. His Spirit moving throughout my home as we turn off the news and turn on the worship music has never felt sweeter. His miraculous wonders have never seemed more brilliant. My longing for Him has never felt so desperate.

The pain makes the healing more meaningful. The darkness gives way to the brilliant light. The peace is more beautiful after you’ve experienced fear. The beauty of God’s presence is clearly visible in the contrast of the shadows of this world.

So while Thanksgiving may feel different this year, if we look beyond the shadows to the glorious light, we can see that His goodness hasn’t changed. His salvation is still here. His Name is still all-powerful. The trial gives way to untold beauty. The Light of the World is moving over your storm clouds. He’s shining through the smoke. 

May you search for the flickering, dancing pattern of His light and dwell in its beauty. 

He is with us, He is for us, and He is singing and shining over us. 

We have much to be thankful for.

Whitney Gothra

About Whitney Gothra

Whitney Gothra and her husband Timothy have been married for around fifteen years, and they have three sweet and spicy girls, Ruby, Selah, and Marigold. They pastor the Apostolic Church of Wabash in Wabash, Indiana. You can connect with her on Instagram @theflourishstudio or online at whitneygothra.com.