There are some things that show up on lots of thankful lists: sunshine, rainbows, favorite foods, fun with family, and puppy dogs. There is undoubtably a LOT of good, beautiful, enjoyable and delicious things in life to give thanks for! Thank you, God!
But, what do we do with the darker side of life: the illness, the unpleasant, the hospital visits, the trials, the storms, the hurting, the loneliness. What about those times when it can be hard to see clearly – like when the windshield is covered with giant raindrops -and it is more difficult to make out God’s goodness.
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (I Thessalonians 5:18). Notice the verse doesn’t say we must give thanks FOR the illness or storm or difficulty. But, IN that situation – in EVERY situation – God’s will is that we give thanks.
Yesterday we read Psalm 105 and were reminded of Joseph’s trials (sold into slavery by his brothers, and then thrown into prison for years for a crime he didn’t commit). Perfect conditions for becoming a hardened, cynical, ungrateful man. Instead, we see Joseph emerging as a wise, forgiving ruler. The difficult times helped to strengthen him and mold him into the man who would do what God had prepared for him.
English poet, Felicia Hemans, wrote, “Strength is born in the deep silence of long-suffering hearts; not amid joy.” And, James put it this way, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever 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). When we look at our tough seasons as periods of growth and times of training for trusting in Him, we have yet another thing to add to our thankful list.
As you read Psalm 107 look for the trials and difficulties (some self-made – as is the case today – and some the product of “circumstance”) as well as what was learned through them. And, count how many times you read the refrain, “Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men.”
Life can be hard. Thankfully, God is with us there.