This post is part of “30 days of Giving Thanks” To read more within this series, click here.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you
~ 1 Thessalonians 5.16-18, ESV
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
~ James 1.2-4, ESV
It seems counterintuitive to be thankful for bad times. Only a masochist would enjoy such a thing, right? Wrong. It all comes down to perspective. Where one man sees failure, another man sees progress. While many may view tribulation as a sign of being in the wrong, others may see it as the mark of suffering for what is right.
Take Thomas Edison, the brilliant inventory of the light bulb (and many other things):
“I have not failed 10,000 times—I’ve successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.”
~ Thomas Edison
The early Christian church suffered in ways we can only imagine, and yet they were joyful, content and radically transforming the world. Here in the U.S.A., we can only imagine what real persecution is, unless we have personally experienced it. More often than not we are downtrodden, envious and ineffective. We are catching glimpses of persecution here—and I have a hunch that more is coming—but few of us have felt the full force of tribulation. Trials do not merely manifest themselves as persecution, however. Some trials are common to all mankind. Cancer, job loss, infidelity, backstabbing, death, grief, war. Where those without Christ see them as meaningless tragedies, we who have hope see them as growing grounds.
Why am I thankful for trials?
I am thankful for the growth. Anyone who has ever had physical growing pains will tell you that growth doesn’t always come slowly, nor is it always pleasant. In order to grow in grace and knowledge and in order to be stronger Christians, we will experience pain.
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.
~ Hebrews 12.3-8, ESV
To be more like Christ means to destroy those aspects of our lives that fight against Him. That is painful. Many who have been rejected by their families for coming to Christ can tell you first hand of the heartache. If you aren’t willing to let the earth go, you will not grow. A sprout doesn’t just sail up through the ground, it has to shove it’s way through the dirt to reach the sunlight. If it didn’t come out of the ground, it would just get dug up and something else put in it’s place.
I am thankful for the humility. If you haven’t read the book of Job, you should. There was a man who was brought to the very dust and refused to “curse God and die” as his wife advised him. His friends said that the trials were a result of sin. Job maintained his righteousness. Ultimately, God made it plain that Job was not as wonderful as he thought he was and that trials did not equal sin. God was, and still is, the mighty one. Job learned humility in so many ways and that humility brought him even closer to God.
He has shown you, O man what is good, but what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God?
~ Micah 6:8, NKJV
I have to often been eager to do the first two and forget the second. Humility is critical to our faith. Are we willing to humble ourselves before God, or are we determined to do things our own way? Do we allow His Word to convict us or are we determined to follow the creeds of men? Is there something that we need to lose in order to be closer to Him? Christ, the Son of the living God humbled himself not just by coming to earth, but by serving people. He refused to have riches and glory on earth in order to serve His Father and to save us. He is the example we need to follow.
I am thankful for empathy.
I’m not talking about sympathy or empathy from others, but empathy I learn to have for others.
So many times I have been guilty of inwardly criticizing the way people react to situations. Once you’ve walked a mile in similar shoes, you don’t always gaze with harshness on others. Does that mean your criticism was wrong or even misplaced? Not necessarily, but the way you approach the problem may have been.
Someone close to me was addicted to drugs many years ago. The addiction wasn’t snuffed out by his own power; he had to submit it to Christ. He couldn’t just put away the drugs, He had to fill his life so full with Jesus that there wasn’t room for the drugs. He doesn’t make excuses for drug addicts because he knows what addiction is. On the other hand, he has compassion on the families of drug addicts and tries to help individuals who are fighting addiction. They can’t accuse him of “not getting it.” He gets it. He knows the ugliness his empathy allows him to encourage them to better things.
Troublesome times can make me be better equipped to help those who are treading through similar valleys in life.
Our miscarriage gave me a glimpse into what not to say to women who have suffered such loss. You wouldn’t believe some of the things people said to us. (Like the doctor: “it was an accidental abortion.” I remember thinking—“What did you just say?!?!?” Abortion carries a connotation of intentionally terminating a child. The two words sounded simultaneously like an accusation and an oxymoron.)
Living with a child who has a neurological disorder has taught me to be more patient with other children.
Being close to someone with PTSD has taught me to be more gracious when people’s responses don’t make sense. Who knows what they are dealing with?
Don’t allow your trials to make you ungrateful.
What did the Israelites do in the wilderness? They complained. They groaned. They lamented their past riches in… slavery?!?!
Yes, they did. They were foolish.
Find something in your dark moments to be thankful for—the avenue of prayer, the grace of God, the knowledge that this life is temporary and something better awaits us.
Give thanks in all circumstances, not just the good ones.