“Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Most everyone is being outwardly thankful at this time of the year…and rightly so as we, especially here in the United States, have a lot to be thankful for. You read positive uplifting comments on facebook, listen to messages on thankfulness at church, hear radio disc jockeys reminding you to be thankful. And it is not hard to look around and be thankful for all that we have in our family & friends, material possessions, positive circumstances and provisions of sustenance. We truly are blessed in so many ways.
And yet if we belong to Jesus Christ we are told that our thankfulness needs to go beyond the “good” things in life that should be easy to lift up praise and thanksgiving for…but we are to be thankful in ALL of our circumstances. (and no I do not believe we are to be thankful for evil but we are to be thankful in the midst of evil) Without getting caught up in the semantics of the difference between being thankful “in” something instead of thankful “for” it, I challenged my children last night to write on our annual Thankfulness Banner (what is that you ask? click here to read about this great family tradition) something that is hard to truly be thankful for. They balked a bit at that suggestion and several still have not given it serious thought. (although rest assured this “committed to purposeful parenting” Mommy will see to it that they do!) My seven year old was really having a hard time wrapping her mind around this concept when I suggested she be thankful for having to do chores. “But I am not thankful for chores at all Mommy!”, she emphatically exclaimed while wrinkling up her nose in disgust.
You see it is really hard to actually say out of your mouth “Thank you God for and in the midst of…”
- the life long challenges of diabetes in one and dyslexia in another faced by two of my precious daughters
- the painful loss of my father 15 years ago (he was only 59!) and him not being here for all of us, especially my Mom
- my battle with high blood pressure
- the loss of 40% of our monthly income this year
- the serious deterioration of parts of our 55 year old home
- those who despise or ridicule me because of my faith that directs my principles, values & actions
- the lack of personal funds to pursue adoption (having to rely on and ask others to help…if I had it “my way” we would have all the money we need in the bank)
- those who speak ill of my husband as a teacher and complain about his methods, abilities, opinions and weaknesses
- dealing with disobedient, lazy, argumentative, ungrateful attitudes and actions found at times in my children
- the never-ending chores and care taking that needs to be accomplished in my life (some of which is very distasteful & disgusting)
- our government and society that seems to be headed in a direction that is opposite of my desires, values and worldview
- my slow metabolism (ok so that is shallow…but I often covet being one of “those” who can eat anything & never gain a pound!…just being transparent here)
And yet even though it is hard for me to be thankful for and in these challenges, hurts and far from perfect circumstances, I am told to offer up my thanksgiving in everything (not just the good things). So this morning I did just that. I thanked God for each and everything on my list. I don’t have any idea why God would even ask us to do such a thing but I suspect it has more to do with changing our hearts, our perspective and drawing us closer to God. As I gave thanks for each of these things my burdens began to lift and dissipate and I found my heart filling with joy, love and peace. I felt free! But even if I had not had any feelings, I do not have to understand, agree with or even benefit from God’s directions for my life as found in His word….I am simply required to do it!
We all have circumstances in our lives that we cannot begin to imagine being thankful for or in. In fact some of you have lists of horrifying situations that makes my list look like a “cake walk” (the life threatening illness, accident or death of a child or spouse, serious abuse or betrayal at the hands of others, financial devastation, violent assault on you or a loved one, life altering injury, being disowned or rejected by those dearest to you….). I know this because many of you are my friends. And yet….
…..for those of us who belong to Christ, we have no option than to be thankful in the midst of it all.
Take some time today to get with God and thank Him for your life challenges, hardships, painful and heart wrenching circumstances. Write them down. Speak your words of thanksgiving out loud to the Lord. Let the tears come if they need to. Share them here with others as a comment on my blog. (yup! be vulnerable!) Tell them to your family or friends around the dinner table. (and be ready for the odd stares) Let this Thanksgiving be a new season for us of living out this command….
….“Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”