Thankful in all Things?

By on November 11, 2012

By Kathy Howard –

This Thanksgiving will look a lot different from last year’s. Grief, loss, and struggle have hit our family in the last six months.

Expressing thanksgiving to God comes naturally when good things and easy circumstances mark my life. But gratitude is not my first response when life is hard.

Yet, according to God’s Word, Christians should be thankful in all circumstances. Not just when we are healthy, all the bills are paid, and there are no rebellious children under our roofs, but all the time, in every circumstance – good and bad.

Humanly speaking, this does not make sense. When things are tough, we humans naturally moan and complain, not offer words of gratitude. But God’s ways are often contrary to our faulty human logic. So, I turned to Scripture to find His answers to the following questions:

  • What does God want me to do in difficult circumstances?
  • Why should I give thanks in difficult circumstances?
  • How can I be thankful in difficult circumstances?

What does God want me to do in difficult circumstances?

Always be joyful. Keep on praying. No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NLT

God asks His children to be joyful and thankful without regard to our physical circumstances. Joy in the midst of difficulty is unique to the Christian life. Consistent and persistent joy is possible for Christians because our Savior fills us with His joy.

Likewise, we can offer our thanks to God “no matter what happens” because even in turmoil we can rest in the security of Christ. Even though our physical life may be unsure, our spiritual circumstances and our eternal destiny are steadfast and secure.

A believer’s joy and gratitude are not based on the physical. They are spiritual responses to spiritual circumstances. As we maintain an eternal perspective and keep our eyes focused on Jesus, God will produce both joy and gratitude in our hearts no matter the trials that fill our lives.

Why should I give thanks in difficult circumstances?

Even if our salvation was the only thing God ever did for us, a life time would not be long enough to express the gratitude He would deserve. But our salvation is only the beginning of countless blessings God pours out on His children. His grace and mercy to us is limitless. Today, let’s focus on reasons to thank Him in the midst of trials.

When we suffer trials and difficulties our faith is tested. This testing strengthens our endurance and refines and purifies our faith moving us toward spiritual maturity (James 1:2-4). Faith that has been refined and proven genuine then brings praise, glory, and honor to Jesus (1 Peter 1:6-7).

God also promises to use every circumstance He allows into our lives for our good. When we love Him and are living for Him, He uses every aggravation, frustration, grief, and pain to work out His greater plan for our lives. He weaves each tear we cry into the intricate pattern of His perfect will.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, and have been called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28, NIV

How can I be thankful in difficult circumstances?

The quick answer is “rest” and “pray.” Take time to rest in God’s sure presence and continually lift up your concerns to God in prayer. Read Psalm 46:1-3 and rejoice in God’s promise! Although the mountains break apart and fall into the sea, God will be our strength and our “ever-present help.” No matter what tragedy may come your way, you can take refuge in the safe arms of God.

While you’re running into God’s arms, start praying and don’t stop. Give Him every worry, every doubt, every fear. Thank Him for how He will use your circumstances to ultimately bring Him glory and ask Him for the strength to endure. Then His peace – which transcends all human logic and understanding – will flood your heart and mind (Phil 4:6-7).

An Attitude of Gratitude is Good Medicine: Practice Thanksgiving

Two university professors spent seven years doing a study on gratitude and how it affects people’s lives. The research project is called “Dimensions and Perspectives of Gratitude.” (Here is more information on this study. http://psychology.ucdavis.edu/Labs/emmons/PWT/index.cfm?Section=5

Here are some of the findings:

  • Grateful people are more positive, optimistic, satisfied, and have lower levels of depression and stress
  • People that maintained a “gratitude journal” for three weeks slept better, had more energy, and spent more time exercising
  • Grateful people place less importance on material goods and are less likely to judge the success of themselves and others in terms of possessions.

This study stumbled upon a spiritual truth. Gratitude is good for the soul! The researchers summarized their findings this way:

Gratitude elevates, energizes, inspires, and transforms, as well as gives meaning to life.

As believers, we should be able to fill up a “gratitude journal” to God in no time flat. Of all the people on this planet, Christians have the most to be thankful for – eternally thankful.

I challenge us to start a gratitude journal this Thanksgiving season. Let’s work to recognize God’s activity in our lives and thank Him for it daily. If you need some help getting started, read Titus 3:3-7 and focus on the incredible truths found there to kick-start your attitude of gratitude today.

Share something from this passage you would like to thank God for!

Kathy Howard helps women live an unshakeable faith for life by encouraging them to stand firm on our rock-solid God no matter the circumstances of life. Kathy, who has a Masters in Christians Education, has been teaching the Bible for over 20 years. Kathy served on a church staff in Midland, Texas for the five years until her family’s move to the Houston area. Kathy and her husband have three children, a son-in-law, and one precious grandbaby. Find out about her books and speaking ministry and get discipleship tools and leader helps at her website: www.kathyhoward.org.

 

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Thankful in all Things?