In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, St. Paul encourages us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
As we find ourselves approaching the season of giving thanks, I want to ponder if I hold a posture of Thanksgiving to God IN all circumstances.
There is no denying, I’ve had my share of difficult times. There have been hurdles, obstacles, detours, loss, grief, diagnoses—all things I would prefer to not have had to encounter.
As we enter the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, I am sure you share similar sentiments or have stories of your own
In times of trial or grief, it can be understandable why it’s hard to give thanks in all things. Yet, this is precisely what we are called to do as St. Paul exhorts.
I have learned moments like these become excellent opportunities to grow closer to God. It is pleasing to Him that we express thanks IN ALL THINGS.
The more I surrender to God and offer thanks for all things He reveals in these difficult times, the more peace I encounter and the more grace and gifts I discover.
We knew somewhere in the muck, disappointment, fear, and grief that eventually, God would reveal a great gift.
Gifts upon gifts have been discovered in the time during my daughter’s hearing loss journey. Many times, even in the darkest hours, God would deliver some grace and mercy.
Had there been no hearing loss, relationships we developed with individuals may not have otherwise occurred. Strength, fortitude, grace, and the empowerment to advocate and be a voice to bring awareness were born out of this loss. We have been thankful we encountered these character-building moments.
None of this meant we should be thankful FOR the suffering and strife, loss, and lamentations. God asks us to be thankful IN all things. God wants us to rely on him during these moments of despair. He promises to not forsake us during these times. Hebrews 13:5.
We are surrounded by so much affliction. It seems to be everywhere, and not one person is excluded from this human suffering.
These past eight months alone have certainly challenged us in ways that, I believe, we may not begin to understand nor fully process for some time to come.
For sure, we are all tired of the weight of those words. The year 2020 has proven to be one of the most challenging years in recent history or memory.
The details might be different for each of us. I am confident we can all share a story that includes loss, grief, diagnosis, loneliness, or disappointment in our lives.
While we may never know the purpose of the challenges we face this side of heaven, holding a posture of gratitude reminds us that God is there for us. We can trust in his consolation and loving embracing to carry us through our adversity.
“Be grateful for trials and tribulations, as they force us to have recourse to the Heavenly Consoler! When all is going well, we forget God; only in adversity do we seek Him for comfort.” -St. Francis de Sales
Giving thanks in ALL things —especially in adversity —seems like a difficult thing to do.
We must trust God and bring to prayer for Him to reveal to us to “Persevere in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving” – Colossians 4:2
It is a good practice to find a prayerful reminder to say when you find yourself struggling. “Lord, I am struggling, I am grieving, I am disappointed, I am trying to understand, (fill in the blank with what weighs on you), but Thank YOU, Father, for this opportunity to draw closer to you. Thank you, for revealing to me the moments of beauty and the ways in which this moment can draw me closer to you. Thank you Father, Thank you. Amen.”
A few years ago, our family had a long grueling season of trouble. There was rapidly declining hearing loss, a rushed cochlear implant surgery, two ruptured ligaments in my driving foot (a walking boot and PT for months), and a broken jaw, a surgery and mouth wired shut for 7 weeks of the summer.
Take a pause and re-read that. All of that happened in 7 short months.
And I can tell you beautiful moments where I unequivocally knew God was with me. God was with my family. And I know a peace that can only come from above came as I learned to lean into a thankful and grateful heart.
You see, my oldest daughter began to hear the clock ticking, the coffee percolating, and could “hear” my voice (in a quiet house) from the next room. These were all a result of the new way of hearing.
While recovering from surgery and training her new way of hearing, she educated at home. We shared sacred time, and she learned to drive.
My younger daughter, who could not eat solid food while her mouth was wired, discovered a love and gift for art and cooking. As she struggled with her young worries and fears, she kept reminding us that she was thankful this was not a more significant injury. Can you imagine that? Out of the mouths of babes.
When I thank God for each new day and ask for eyes to see beauty and wonder, my heart begins to rest in a place of gratitude more easily. “Dear Father, I don’t know the plans you have for me in this day; thank you for all you reveal to me.”
We are surrounded by beauty and wonder. It is in taking the time to NOTICE that beauty opens the door of my heart and mind to gratitude.
This small opening in your heart for gratitude is like a bathroom light being left on at night. The door can be left ajar with the slightest sliver of a glow that allows light to pierce the darkness.
A sense of gratitude and fixing our eyes on the truth around us can help us see that while the hard things in life might occur around us, we ARE still able to find peace and rejoice in suffering. The slightest light or a heart filled with thankfulness can pierce dark times.
Stay in the moment.
When we allow God to Lead the Way in our daily lives, we can find peaceful moments. Isaiah 12:2 assures us, “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord Himself, is my strength and my defense. He has become my salvation.”
Allowing my mind to wander beyond the present moment, as we encounter incredibly challenging times, can get us caught up in the what-ifs that can create fear rather than peace and anxiety.
“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body and be thankful.” -Colossians 3:14
I remind myself we can only take a day at a time and begin each day by thanking God for small and “every day” moments. Psalm 100:4 says, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and bless his name.”
Gratitude is an attitude that comes with practice and prayer.
We may not always know what God is doing for us in our times of trouble, but thank him and “Offer praise as your sacrifice to God;
fulfill your vows to the Most High.” Psalm 50:14
Making a choice to focus on Thanksgiving for the gifts will help us see beauty, know grace, and feel peace beyond understanding.
“In all created things discern the providence and wisdom of God, and in all things give Him thanks.” – St. Teresa of Avila.
“and whatever you say or do, let it be in the name of the Lord Jesus, in thanksgiving to God the Father through him.” Col 3:17
How have you filled your heart with thanks during challenging times?
“Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20).