I hope your Thanksgiving was as lovely as mine was. It’s always hard to be separated from family on holidays like this one, but we’ve been blessed with a church that has adopted us for every holiday. Hubby and I spent a wonderful day as honorary members of our pastor’s family, along with their own children, another friend, and two other Air Force families that were far from home.
It got me thinking about how easy it is to be thankful for the pieces of our lives that are obviously good.
Sweet husband – Good thing
Healthy baby girl (due in March) – Good thing
Warm, safe house – Good thing
Loveable, floppy puppy – Good thing
Juicy, succulent turkey – Good thing
But what about those kinks, the parts of our lives that throw us for a loop and make us breathe hard? Those things that have tried our patience and kept our plans from fruition? What about thing x, that makes us say, “If only I didn’t have x in my life, it would all be grand.”? Are we thankful in the midst of those things as well?
Being Grateful Doesn’t Always Translate to Happiness
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Don’t take this challenge to mean you have to be thankful for your mother’s cancer or your daughter’s excessive OCD. In my teen years, I would have done nearly anything to avoid admit my tics and anxiety to others, much less giving thanks for them. They were a source of shame and a reminder that I was different in a way I didn’t want to be. They made me feel like I’d lost control of both my thoughts and my body. They were the reason I told God, “I know You love me, but I just don’t understand why you won’t take these things away!”
The 1 Thessalonians Bible verse wasn’t an easy one to swallow. As the years went by, however, I began to see what Paul was really saying. Instead of saying, “Be grateful for your tics,” he was saying, “Be grateful even in the midst of your tics, for God has a plan for your life.” It became a little easier to swallow my circumstances when I realized I didn’t have to be joyful that I had troubles, but rather, that I should give thanks while moving through them.
Because God came down from Heaven to become man, and die the death that I deserved. Because God doesn’t intend to punish me for my sins, but instead, punished Christ for me, opening His arms to me instead. Because I am adored more than life. Because He has a plan for me. This promise is made over and over again in the Bible.
- “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” – Genesis 50:20
- “Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind!” – Psalm 31:19
- “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble…The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” – Proverbs 16:3-4,9
- “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:10
- “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” – 2 Corinthians 4:17-18
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’ And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ ” – Revelation 21:3-5
Thankful After All
God doesn’t demand that we be masochists, delighting in all the pain and difficulties our lives in this sinful world bring us. Rather, He commands us to be faithful. He wants us to keep our eyes on Him, to have faith that these stories He’s writing for us will be the most amazing stories one day when we look back on them. As we delight in stories of heroes, stories that dip into the darkest valleys but end on the highest, brightest peaks, we need to give thanks that God is writing these stories for us.
In my 25 years, I’ve been surprised at how 20/20 vision comes more quickly than one might think. As I said, during my teen years, my disorders were embarrassments to me. Now that I’m in my mid-twenties, I’m beginning see how my disorders have shaped me, how God has used them to teach me. So I guess I can say that I am grateful for my Tourettes, OCD tendencies, and anxiety…in retrospect.
Joni Eareckson Tada, one of my greatest inspirational heroes, lost use of her arms and legs as teenager in a diving accident. Now a quadriplegic, she has used her position in life to be a spokesperson for poor children around the world who need wheelchairs, and her organization works to provide them. This is what Joni says about giving thanks in times of pain in her article, “A Thankful Heart in a World of Hurt.”
“God tells us to do that in First Thessalonians chapter 5 and it’s something I do every day as a quadriplegic in a wheelchair. Is it hard to do that? You bet it is, especially when my quadriplegia is made more difficult by chronic pain or difficulty in breathing. But I have learned over the years that to give thanks is not the same as feeling thankful. No, trusting God has absolutely nothing to do with trustful feelings. To give thanks in the midst of pain and problems is to take a rugged and demanding step of faith based on God’s command in first Thessalonians. The Lord tells us there to give thanks in all circumstances (not just those we can handle or feel on top of).”
Whether you’re at a place where you are grateful for the difficulties in your life, or whether you’re struggling with them now, it’s a relief to know they won’t last forever. One day, all will be made new. One day, God will wipe away our tears. One day, we will realize how God has used our hardships to shape us, and we will smile and give thanks. Maybe we can’t smile at them now, and God doesn’t say we have to. We need to smile and give thanks that God loves us, loves us too much to allow us to wander through life without being shaped into the beautiful creatures we were created to be for His glory.
Do you have any experiences that you’ve been through, or perhaps that you’re going through, that you’d like to share? How have you handled these? Was it difficult to hold onto hope? Leave a comment in the Comment Box below. And don’t forget, you can sign up for my newsletter for extra resources on neurological disorders, education, and spiritual encouragement. As always, thanks for reading!