When it is hard to be thankful……
Have you ever experienced a time in life like that? I know I have. In fact, I originally started writing this this post, a few days ago when I was going through some of the hardest challenges I’ve ever faced, and wanted to give up. I even had a melt down for a few days and started to lose my faith. But I shook that off and I know these challenges will pass with the healing power of time and with the sustenance of God’s goodness, but others of them may lingered, and I will keep trusting and believing. I wanted to write this post, in hopes that it will in some way breathe a encouragement of life into someone who is struggling now themselves. If you’ve feel that this post is for you, I’d love to hear from you. Leave your comment below so I can be praying for you!
We’re told that even in hard times to be thankful. It’s a time to reflect, and to consider all the ways we’ve been blessed. It’s a time to give our gratitude to God for our families, our home, and our health and our freedoms. To count our blessings and hold close the ones we love. I appreciate that perspective, because I think that there is a lot to be said about a heart of gratitude. It’s important to take the time to thank God for all that is good in our life, and there is so much power in perspective.
But what if giving thanks means more than just counting our blessings?
What if being thankful meant surrendering our struggles, too?
As much as I want to be thankful for all the good this year so far, if I’m completely honest- this has been one of the hardest years of my life and it has just begun! It’s come with a lot of trials, a lot of tears, and a lot of pain. As I look back on this last month, even some of the greatest joys have been rooted in moments of deep suffering.
I know I am not alone in my struggles.
I can’t possibly begin to tell you about the countless emails I’ve received recently, as well as the numerous conversations I’ve had with people who are going through some really hard times. Men and women struggling with loneliness, addictions, and anxiety. Depression, illness, and death. Divorce, infertility, and injustice. People struggling to deal with one hard thing or another. Broken hearts, confused minds, hurting bodies.
Life can be so hard. And sometimes, God can seem so very far away.
For many people, the holidays that just past were not filled with thanksgiving and cheer, because instead, they’re filled with pain and suffering.
They’re filled with the gnawing, aching reminder of what was lost–or what never was.
Through the hard times, the most profound lesson I’m learning involves redefining of my definition of Thanksgiving. I am challenged to be more than just “thankful”.
I am challenged to do something even more difficult–I’m challenged trust.
I am proclaiming right now that in times of suffering, a heart of gratitude means more than just saying “thank you”- it means believing that God is who He says He is. Believing that He is good, that He is love, and that He is for me. Believing that He never changes, that He never fails, and that He is working all things for what is good.
Whatever it is you are struggling through right now, may this be a reminder of God’s everlasting faithfulness for your life.
No matter what it is you are going through: He has brought you this far, and He won’t leave you now.
Whatever it is that is weighing on your heart and burdening your mind, be reminded that though you don’t understand the reason- there is a loving God that does, and He is walking by your side every step of the way. He will never leave you, and He never has.
His plans for your life may include weeping for a moment, but joy will always come in the morning.
No matter what it is that we’re going through- I believe with all of my heart that if we knew what God knows, we would want to be exactly in this time and exactly in this place. As hard as it may be, there is no better nor safer place to be than smack-dab in the middle of His good, pleasing, and perfect will. Because He knows best and there is no plan greater than His plan for our life.
Life doesn’t always turn out how we expect it to, but it turns out just right. I look back at the struggles of my past in light of who I am today, and I see God’s hand and purposes every step of the way. He has brought us this far, and He won’t leave us now.
This is all part of a bigger picture- a picture far more beautiful, lovely, and perfect than we could ever begin to dream of.
The more thankful one is, the more there is to be thankful for. A person cannot be complaining and thankful at the same time, nor can they worry about money or health or anything while being thankful. To dwell on political or economic woes, international crises, personal problems, or even someone else’s problems, will invite irritability, confusion, mistrust, disgust, depression, a sense of helplessness, hopelessness and futility.
Better to stop and take into consideration what and who is truly valuable in one’s life. There is always something to be thankful for. “Better a handful with quietness than both hands full, together with toil and grasping for the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 4:6)
Life is not all about accumulation of things. He who dies with the most money or the most toys, still dies. No one can take their friends or their collections with them to the grave. Job, in Job 1:21 said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.”)
A very well-grounded perspective. Solomon repeated the truth in Ecclesiastes 5:15. “As he came from his mother’s womb, naked shall he return, to go as he came; and he shall take nothing from his labor which he may carry away in his hand. Jesus asked the rhetorical question, “Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25) And Jesus taught clearly in Luke 12:15 to “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”
It’s settled then. Life is more than food and clothes and houses and cars and stuff. Life for the Christian is about loving God and loving others, and introducing people to the Lord Jesus Christ. People are to be loved and things are to be used, and never the opposite. All things considered, life is precious and fleeting and fragile, and it behooves believers to take time often and just be thankful. Make a list of things to be thankful for if necessary, but part of obeying God’s Word is taking time for thanksgiving.
Many verses in the Bible teach God’s people to be thankful, regardless of circumstances. No matter how unpleasant a situation becomes, it is good to remember that it could always be worse.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)
“And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:17)
Memorizing verses such as those preceding can be a tremendous help when tempted to be unthankful. Remembering that unthankfulness leads to hardness of heart, which leads to bitterness and unbelief, may serve as a deterrent to being unthankful. Hebrews 13:5 presents a beautiful and balanced way of thinking, and serves as a reminder of what and Who is truly important. “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’”
This year, may you and I be challenged to trust God more, to believe Him better, and to know Him deeper. His heart is good, His love is pure, His plans are magnificent. Whether we feel it or not, it doesn’t cease to be true.
May you be challenged to be more than thankful this year…as you lay down your pain and problems at His feet–and choose to trust Him again. Grace and peace to you, dear one, as you learn to rest in the arms of a loving God.