Many families maintain a Thanksgiving tradition of going around the table laden with turkey and fixin’s and having everyone share what they are thankful for. The responses are usually predictable: “I am thankful for my family, my home, my friends, my job, my good health . . . and of course the food!”
Indeed, we should be thankful for all those things. But this year, I’m challenging myself to go deeper in my gratitude.
There’s a verse that says to “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (I Thessalonians 5:16-18, NASB).
In everything? Other versions of Scripture say “in all circumstances,” (NIV); “no matter what happens” (MSG). This deepens the scope of thankfulness to well beyond “good things” and pleasant situations.
But surely it doesn’t mean we should be thankful for bad things, does it? I don’t believe so. However, it does provide a call to be thankful in the midst of, and in spite of, the difficulties of life.
Here are a few reasons I have found to be thankful in the middle of challenging circumstances:
Trials: Difficult situations are by nature unpleasant, yet they are the “Miracle Grow” that causes our character and faith to blossom. In addition, they cultivate sensitivity to others who are going through similar situations, and equip us to be an encouragement to them. A rough stretch can also supersize our thankfulness when we reach brighter times. After a devastating house fire, I am much more appreciative of the roof over my head. Following several years of serving in a toxic work environment, I thank God continually for my current place of employment where I am treated with kindness and respect.
Weaknesses and limitations: My chronic health challenges are a constant reminder of my physical weakness. Yet they also cause me to rely on God daily for strength, which is a faith-building process I would miss if I could operate in my own power. Although my health issues narrow the scope of activities I can pursue, my “limitations” also help define the areas God wants me to focus on (like writing this blog)!
Denials: Life is filled with constant reminders of what I don’t have. Scrolling through Facebook can be tough as my friends gush about their perfect mates, talented children and adorable grandkids. In moments where all I can see are the “good things” I’ve missed, I am thankful that I can trust God to know what’s best for me. I remember that I am set apart for His service (not set aside). When I reflect on what I haven’t experienced, I’m also thankful for what I’ve been spared from. Only God knows the heartache, injury and loss that I’ve been protected from throughout my life.
As the saying goes, “I don’t know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future.” Though life is certain to contain a combination of joys, blessings, trials, limitations and denials, I am grateful that I can trust God to be with me through whatever lies ahead. He will supply the things I need and never leave or forsake me. And when it’s time to enter eternity, where every tear will be wiped away, I can’t wait to thank my Savior in person.
As the aroma of turkey fades from the air, I encourage you to join me in finding reasons to give thanks in every circumstance, not just this holiday weekend, but all year long!