The family and I had the luxury of spending a few days on the western slope this past week visiting friends of ours that we’ve known since Aimee and I were teenagers. The husband has been in ministry on and off over the past 20 years, and was recently hired as the worship pastor for a church in Delta, Colorado. This new job was something that the husband has been wanting for many years but it meant moving away from family, friends, church family, and activities/clubs that the children were involved in. The wife was finding it extremely difficult to adjust to having moved so far away from the life that they had come to know and love in the city. I believe she’d even say that she was angry with the move and how it was affecting her and one of their girls.
Fast forward a year and a half, and the wife is sharing with me and Aimee some encouraging counsel she received from another friend. This friend of hers simply told her to find one thing to be thankful for each day. On the surface this seems trivial but she continued to share how it had truly been changing the way that she regarded their situation and how it had actually helped her to appreciate this new season in life.
Are we thankful in ALL situations? What about those who’ve lost their marriage, their job, or their home? How about those of us who are grieving the loss of a family member, hae received a challenging health diagnosis, or are struggling with infertility? Even in the midst of such awful situations, we still have much to be thankful for.
Track with me as I share the story of a man who had every right to be embittered and ungrateful—but wasn’t:
At any moment the guards would come to his cell to bring him before the governor for his final trial. The cold, hard floor was where he laid his head each night, not knowing if it would be his last. Every move was hindered and challenged by the cumbersome chains connected to the manacles that mercilessly dug into his ankles and wrists. Living in solitude, beaten multiple times, and unjustly accused, this man would had every reason to complain about how his life was going, but the words from his mouth were instead filled with thanksgiving and praise.
The man was the Apostle Paul—someone who mastered the art of thanksgiving, even when faced with extreme hardship and tribulation. Even as he was imprisoned in Rome, Paul wrote, “Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:19b-20, NIV)
Being thankful was an everyday occurrence for the Apostle Paul! One that shaped his thoughts and actions, making him a joyful person in all circumstances. This is something we can all work on: being thankful regardless of the situation!
Here are a few things I think we can be thankful for…
It’s entirely natural to try and avoid situations that are difficult or affect me in a negative way; however, I will face adversity multiple times throughout my life. It’s during the times I face trials and persecution that Christ said I will not be separated from His love (Romans 8:35). Not only does He promise to love me, but I will also be drawn closer to Him: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4, NIV)
God knows everything I’m facing and desires for me to cultivate a spirit of thankfulness, even during adversity and heartaches, “giving thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NIV)
At times, I catch myself wondering whether I have enough—or if life would be better if I just had… (fill in the blank). However, it’s truly liberating to just be thankful for what God has given me! After all, everything I have is from Him. “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life” (2 Peter 1:3a, NIV) “Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things.” (1 Chronicles 29:12, NIV) This list could include, but is certainly not limited to a home, clothes, work, transportation, health, a loving pet, etc.
How often do I take the relationships in my life for granted? Or get angry because someone isn’t doing exactly what I expect them to? Instead, I need to be thankful for my friends, family, spouse, children, and relatives… and for those relationships that have carried me through trials. I’m also thankful for the relationships that have challenged me and held me accountable. I should continually let the people in my life know I appreciate them and am thankful for the difference they make in my life, “I thank God every time I remember you.” (Philippians 1:3, NIV)
God’s power in your life
I simply can’t navigate this world without God’s power, and there is nothing I can do and nothing that happens to me without God allowing it. “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…” (Ephesians 3:20). ”This is what the Lord says — the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it…” (Isaiah 42:5, NIV)
This one is a no-brainer and should be on my lips daily! To be granted salvation through Christ’s sacrifice, especially because it’s undeserved, is the ultimate gift. How can I not be thankful when God has given me so much to look forward to?! “…and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.” (Colossians 1:12, NIV)
So, I’m committing to finding one thing to be thankful for each day, no matter what my circumstances are. Are you with me?
Missions & Outreach Pastor Ryan Dwyer