It’s Thanksgiving week, so naturally lately people have been thinking about and talking about things they’re thankful for. Really, there’s so much, where to start? The amazing people in my life, my awesome church, living in such an incredible place, having a great job, the fact that sunsets and strawberries exist, the list could go on and on and on.
It’s easy to be thankful for the good stuff. It’s easy to be thankful when we’re happy. It’s easy to be thankful when we have enough. It’s easy to be thankful when life is easy.
But as Christians we are called to more than that. The Bible instructs us to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18). How can we go from praising God for a table full of food or for a raise at work or for healing from an illness to praising God like Job who, when losing all of his wealth and all of his children had perished, fell on the ground in worship saying, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21)?
Paul learned the secret to this as illustrated in 2 Corinthians 12 when he wrote:
Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (emphases mine)
When we face challenge or hardship, it’s an opportunity for God’s greatness to shine through. So instead of being thankful for the standard things this week, I challenged myself to find reasons to be thankful for the things that are hard to be thankful for. The things I wish would change or go away. Here’s a few I came up with; maybe you can find some surprising ways to discover gratitude this season as well.
God, I thank you for my seasons of depression, for when I feel weak and lost it is then that I run fastest and most eagerly to you.
God, I thank you for the people that aggravate me, for they are an opportunity for me to learn to love better, more like you, and they remind me how you love and delight in me even when I disobey.
God, I thank you for giving me my daily bread and not too much more, for it reminds me to value the things that I have and remember that things can never satisfy the way you can. (Side note: one of my favorite verses.)
God, I thank you for the unfulfillment I feel at work from time to time, for it reminds me that my purpose comes from my identity in you and not from what I do.
God, I thank you for the challenges I face in ministry, as they remind me that this is YOUR ministry, not mine, that YOU are the one who changes hearts and minds and draws all people to you, not me. Thank you for the privilege to work with you in spreading your good news.