Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Be Thankful in All Circumstances

Be thankful in all circumstances, 
for this is God’s will for you 
who belong to Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 NLT

This year has gone by so quickly. I can't believe tomorrow is Thanksgiving. It has been an incredibly difficult year, full of struggles on almost every front. I have a daily habit of practicing gratitude, but many days I have struggled to come up with three things I am thankful for. The verse from 1 Thessalonians continues to come to mind, telling me that it's God's will for me to be thankful.

I tend to read that verse incorrectly, thinking that God is insistent that I'm thankful for all circumstances. Instead, He asks that I be thankful in all circumstances.

It's hard to be thankful for situations that blindside your family, that turn lives upside down, that cause anguish and grief you're not sure you'll survive. The only reason I can be thankful for circumstances like that is that they give God another chance to show His power and might, His ability, His provision, and His faithfulness on our behalf. It's amazing, but it's still hard to utter prayers that start "Thank You for . . . ."

When I think about being thankful in all circumstances, it's still hard, but I can reach this point a little more quickly. Even in the middle of the battle, I am thankful. I am thankful for friends and family who support us, for basic needs met, for the intimate relationship with God that is developing from hours spent seeking His face for peace and joy as well as answers, and for the comfort of His Word.

There's not a huge difference, but that one little preposition changes the meaning significantly---and it makes it much easier for me to remain in God's will. I want to be in God's will, especially when it comes to expressing gratitude. Gratitude has changed my mindset about so much. Instead of thinking about the worst in a situation, I'm able to turn it around and remember what I'm grateful for.

This really became evident to me one Christmas Day when my younger daughter got sick with a stomach virus right after she opened her gifts. We ended up in the emergency room later that day, which led to a hospital admission. I could have wallowed in self-pity and thought about nothing but how our holiday was ruined. Since I'd been practicing gratitude every day, I was able to come up with a whole list of things I was thankful for and didn't feel like the entire day was lost. It was a much better mindset for the evening.

It's also a much better mindset for life.

Pray: Father, thank you for telling us to give thanks in all circumstances. I have seen the work you have done in my life through the daily practice of gratitude, and I know that's why you want us to remain thankful! Help us to find the good that surrounds us, even when everything is so bad I feel I might not survive. Amen.


2 comments:

  1. Jennifer, I can't help but read this and think of my father's death. Before you find yourself horrified by that comment, let me share with you how I was able to give thanks in the midst of that circumstance. Although my father had fallen to the floor with aortic aneurysm on a Monday morning, we had just spent the entire weekend with him, my mother and my sister at our camper/trailer over 2 hours away from home. We had an active weekend. That Monday morning, I was able to get to the hospital to be with him before he lost consciousness, and I was able to sing him to the gates of heaven with his favorite Irish song. I also found myself giving thanks IN my circumstances because I got to spend my dad's final weekend on earth with him. Because of God's hand of protection, he did not die behind the wheel of the car on the way to our place or back, which would have injured or killed my mom and sister as well. And he was safe the entire time he was at our campground, which also is all to God's glory. I miss him every day since he's been gone, but I am so thankful for the Lord's loving hand in the midst of our sorrowful situation.

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    1. I'm so glad you had this perspective. It's hard to remember that God is present in the midst of our grief and heartache, but there are so many details He reveals that show His love and care.

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