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Thistles for Thanksgiving

Marti Wibbels, MS, LMHC

At Thanksgiving, we usually talk about why we’re grateful and think about the blessings and joys of the past year. Thistles aren’t a typical Thanksgiving topic! So why discuss thistles now?

Like trauma, thistles are unwelcome intruders, weeds so tenacious it can take repeated growing seasons to eradicate. That’s why I was surprised to see thistles adorning gifts in shops throughout Edinburgh, Scotland. Why would anyone want a mug or jewelry depicting a noxious weed? And why did Scotland choose this prickly plant as its national emblem? An Edinburgh tour guide helped me understand. During an attempted invasion of Scotland, Vikings removed their shoes, planning a nighttime surprise attack. After climbing a cliff beyond the beach, they stormed into a field of thistles, the secret raid foiled by their screams of pain.

What’s the take-away from this thistle epistle? It’s simply this: although we can’t remove the pain trauma delivers, we can learn to survive and thrive. After repeated attempts to eradicate a field of thistles, Scottish landowners had to have been astonished when those thistles prevented their own “eradication” by Viking raiders. Unlike the prickly Vikings, we can choose to steadily move forward, no longer defined by suffering.

If you’re suffering this Thanksgiving, ask God to help you see beyond your pain. From prison, Paul wrote, “…in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” He didn’t write “for everything,” but in it. Suffering doesn’t usually make sense, but it does make sense to choose gratitude as our attitude when we read: And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6b-7, ESV).

When God promises He causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28), He’s not saying all things are somehow “good,” but that He can cause even painful, difficult things to work together for our good. He loves you!

May God transform your thistles into vehicles of victory!


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