I think we might divide up all the people in the world into two classes- the complainers and the thankful. Which one are you? Which am I?
– Elisabeth Elliot
We all know the importance of being thankful. The Bible is full of instructions to be grateful. One of our national holidays is devoted to it. Even productivity experts suggest using gratitude as a bookend for the day, taking time to be thankful in the morning and the evening. When people are asked to name things they are thankful for, they often cite their family, health, financial provisions and similar blessings. But, how often do people say thank you for a chronic illness, a disability, or the loss of a job?
In our modern, instant gratification society, we are very good at being thankful for good things. According to Scripture, this is the easy part.
Rejoice in the LORD always- again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all people. The LORD is near. Do not be anxious about anything- but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the shalom of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Messiah Yeshua. Philippians 4:4-7
YHVH asks more of us than to be thankful for the good things. He wants us to learn to be thankful for everything, and see His hand in our lives even when we aren’t comfortable. I remember writing in the margin of my Bible as a teenager – God is more concerned with my character than my comfort. To be thankful in the face of adversity is a tall order, and not learned overnight. But, we are to keep working on having a thankful heart, even when it’s hard. I have found, from looking at the lives of people in the Bible, observing those around me, and my own life experience, that we grow the most when our lives seem the most difficult. If we train ourselves to look at our life experiences with a desire to learn rather than a desire to be comfortable, it will be easier to find the silver linings.
Is it okay to feel frustrated, to grieve, to cry out in anguish, to long for better days? Absolutely! Even a quick look at the Psalms will show us that some of the most godly people in the Bible felt very deep, very dark emotions. They were not condemned for this. But, we will also see that the psalmists always made sure to return their thoughts to praise for their Creator and God. I recently found out that I will be facing major surgery in the near future. It was very overwhelming for me to process at first. A dear friend of mine, rather than offering cheap platitudes, pointed me to Psalm 88. She told me that there wasn’t a positive thing in the whole Psalm. Why would that be helpful, you might ask? She was giving me permission to feel. I read the Psalm, and I cried, and I felt overwhelmed. But, YHVH was faithful to bring me back to a place of gratitude. He met me in my place of anguish and showed me the silver linings. He did not heal me directly, but chose to let me live with chronic pain for a time to teach me how to live better for Him. A big lesson that I learned was how to prioritize my life and focus on what was truly important. At the right time, He provided a way for me to feel better again.
What are you struggling with right now? Are you, like me, facing serious health problems? Did someone in your family recently get an unwanted diagnosis? Is your financial situation causing you stress? Are you quicker to worry than you are to be thankful? It’s okay and even important to feel the emotions that come with these situations. But, how can we follow the psalmist’s example and return to a place of praise and thanksgiving?
- Realize that YHVH does not have to run His plans by us first.
- Look for opportunities to bear His image better.
- Look for HIs mercies. Even though the situation is ugly, where did He provide deliverance?
- Ask for YHVH to deliver you from the instant gratification mentality. His timing is perfect, and our attempts to speed things up will only leave us feeling frustrated.
- Practice daily gratefulness. Look for the easy things at first as you develop this habit. Is the sun shining? Did you wake up this morning? Do you have food to eat? As you develop this habit, it will be more natural to be grateful when life is less than rosy.
- Remember that our purpose is to bear YHVH’s image to the world. When people see us, they should see the Father. How are we representing Him? Are we complaining, or are we grateful? Are we viewing all of our life circumstances as opportunities to learn how to serve Him better? Or are we only grumbling when things don’t go our way, or as fast as we want?
I know this is a difficult topic, and again, we don’t learn to be grateful in all things overnight. I am learning this lesson, and I hope this post will help you to learn it as well. Please share something difficult in your life that you need to be grateful for. Have you been able to see His hand in it, or would you like us to pray with you that you are able to have a grateful heart?
YHVH is good, and gives good gifts to His children, even if they don’t seem good to us.