Are you finding it difficult to express gratitude this Thanksgiving season?
It’s okay if you say yes.
Many of us have lost a lot within the last two years. We’ve seen sickness and death, shortages and inflation. Loss has a way of making us grateful for what we have left. But at times, even that wears thin.
Then there’s that difficult little verse in the Bible that challenges me about my lack of gratitude in the hard moments. Does it challenge you?
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”I Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV)
The word, ALL, is the trouble spot. How can we be grateful for ALL circumstances?
First, read that phrase again. The verse says IN all, not FOR all.
In whatever circumstance you find yourself, you can still be grateful. How?
This morning, I have some random thoughts to share with you. I admit, not well thought out. But perhaps there’s enough of a seed of an idea that you can nurture in your own life. Thanks to Jesse Craig, pastor of Valley Christian Church in Tucson, AZ, who has been planting gratitude seeds in my life for the last month.
God is good
Circumstances change. But God never changes. He is still in control, He still loves you, and He will never leave you. Within whatever circumstance you find yourself, you can thank God for who He is.
Gratitude demonstrates trust
Being thankful amid what we consider bad circumstances is like a vote of confidence for God. We express faith in God when we thank Him for His character traits. We express trust in His continuing ability and desire to provide for us when we thank Him for what we have instead of grumbling about what we don’t have.
A matter of perspective
What makes a certain circumstance bad or good? Yes, some circumstances would get a one-star rating from 99.9% of the human race. But let’s face it. Most events in our lives are all in how we look at the situation, whether we personally consider it pleasant. All too often, we want to judge what happens based on our own comfort level or preferences.
Case in point. On a recent trip, my daughter, grandson, and I needed lunch en route to the airport. We needed quick service, nutritious food, an easy to find location, and a convenient, comfortable place for a toddler with toddler food options. I remembered a place in a small town ten miles before the airport and we pulled in around noon. To our surprise, only one other group was in the dining room. The food was not as good as I remembered it; in fact, my chef salad was nothing more than slightly yellow iceberg lettuce, shredded cheese, and small pieces of ham with some accompanying club crackers. As we said grace, believe me, it was hard saying thank you for such a skimpy salad.
As we left the restaurant, my daughter sighed. “That was perfect.” She was right. Despite my less than desirable salad, the restaurant was all that we had needed, even a server who thought my grandson’s antics were adorable. He was happy with a bowl of cottage cheese and my club crackers and we even had time to enjoy a bit of dessert.
Gratitude is a choice
I had a choice: I could whine about a salad I didn’t like or I could express gratitude that God met all of our needs according to His riches. In the scheme of the overall day, the taste of a salad became insignificant. God had given us our daily bread, the fuel we needed to make it through a long trip.
Perhaps the contention over the word IN verses FOR is irrelevant. If I’m trusting God for His good in the overall picture, even those moments of unpleasantness and downright anguish still carry elements of His goodness as He uses them to bring me closer to His plan for me. In trust, I can say, “Thank you, God, for these circumstances. I don’t see Your overall plan right now or how this situation could possibly be for my good. But You are in the business of making redemptive use of bad situations and I thank You that You’ve got this one covered.”
How do you see your circumstances? Do you see what you don’t like or do you see God’s blessings embedded within the circumstances? Do you focus on unpleasant details or the bigger picture of God’s provision? If your circumstances are so bad that you can’t see the good at least at this time, you can go into a trusting God mode. Confident that He has your best interest at heart, you can tell Him honestly, “Lord, this isn’t pleasant. But I trust that You are taking care of me and the plan of Your Bigger Picture is good. So I thank You for what You are doing even if I can’t see it at the moment.”
After all, as 2 Corinthians 4:17 says,
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”2 Corinthians 4:17 (NIV)
In the global scheme of eternity, our temporary circumstances are as flimsy as spun sugar.
Yes, we can thank God for all circumstances. Those circumstances are merely pieces of a large puzzle that God is fitting together to showcase His glory in our lives. We may not like it but we can still thank Him for it, trusting that, as a good and loving God, He knows what He is doing.
What do you think? How has it been hard for you to thank God this year? How do you see God working in your circumstances? Let me know in the comments below.