In Everything, Give Thanks
"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
Several weeks ago, I traveled to New Mexico to teach at a Christian writers' conference. As is often the case, I met some interesting people along the way. Some were chatty; others weren't. On one leg of my flight, I talked to my seatmate, sharing a little of the challenges our family faced last year and my thankfulness despite circumstances. She swiveled toward me and said, "Wait a minute. Both your mother and mother-in-law died, and your son had a severe injury and two major surgeries. How can you be thankful for any of that?"
Many times gratitude doesn't make sense to those unfamiliar with the habit of cultivating a thankful heart. Based on the story of the ten lepers in Luke 17, we can assume probably only a tenth of us make an effort to express gratitude, since just one of the ten returned to thank Jesus for his healing. So, is it reasonable to be thankful even when things are difficult? On the surface, no, but I believe we can train ourselves to be grateful even when waves of adversity and challenge crash over us.
Although last year is one I gladly consigned to history at year end, now that I am beyond the immediacy of crises, I more readily understand the reasons to praise God even in challenging times. The Bible tells us to give thanks in all circumstances, not just when things are going well. Here are some reasons we can do that:
God is our hope – Job experienced heartache, adversity, acute physical pain and mental anguish, but despite all he endured he could still say,
"Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him" (Job 13:15 KJV).
Trusting God to work out the details of what we're going through is probably one of the biggest challenges of our Christian walk. We fool ourselves into believing we have control over our lives with all our planning, but difficulties are less stressful when we relinquish our efforts and acknowledge that God is in control.
We have the assurance of God's love and salvation – Romans 8:39 reminds us that no matter what we go through, nothing can separate us from God's love. If we've trusted Christ as Savior, our salvation and eternity is secure. This promise is balm for the soul when doubts and fears overwhelm.
Hardship lasts only for a season – When we're going through something really hard, at the time, it's difficult to imagine things will ever improve. And Satan considers these seasons an opportune time to whisper lies like "a loving God wouldn't allow this in your life" or "God doesn't care about you because he's not coming to your rescue." Don't believe Satan's falsehoods. God cares. He sees. He knows. And this season in your life will end. "To everything there is a season, and a time for every matter or purpose under heaven" (Ecclesiastes 3:1 AMP).
Being a Christian doesn't exempt us from challenge. In fact, Jesus told us we'd have trouble in this world. Yet we're often angry and surprised when we encounter hardships. Just remember, we have the ultimate victory because of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross. For this reason, we can give thanks despite struggles.
© Candy Arrington 2011. Used with permission.
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Candy Arrington's publishing credits include The Lookout, Encounter, Focus on the Family, Clubhouse, Thriving Family, The Upper Room, The Writer, and Writer's Digest. She is coauthor of Aftershock: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B & H Publishing Group) and When Your Aging Parent Needs Care: Practical Help for This Season of Life (Harvest House Publishers). Candy and her husband, Jim, live in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and have two adult children. www.CandyArrington.com.
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