This is the time of year when we are inundated with reminders to be thankful. We make crafts with our children, send cards, prepare feasts, recite blessings.
It is right to be thankful for our abundance, for our obvious blessings.
But consider this:
"Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." Ephesians 5:19-20Was Paul serious that we should be thankful for everything? Everything?
What would that look like?
Should I be thankful for headaches? For my child being injured? Thankful that my friend is suffering through a divorce?
What does it mean to always be thankful for everything?
I can not begin to imagine every possible scenario, and I know that there are those that horrify. The trials that some go through are beyond my comprehension.
Yet I come back to "be thankful for everything."
When I first began to consider this scripture, I tried something new in my prayer time. I began to give thanks for the bad things that happened in my day.
I didn't say, "And thank you for the demeaning way I was treated at work today." Instead I would pray: "Thank you for the reminder I had today of who sets my value. I am so glad that you are my judge, and that I ultimately work for you. Please help me to love my employer the way you love him."
Sometimes I might have to pray, "Please show me what there is to be thankful for in this situation, or about this person."
At first this was hard, but over time it became easier. And remarkably, the trials seemed a little less, well, trying. It was as if a sharp edge was being been rubbed off them. I didn't feel as angry. A tenderness was growing in me.
Then I ran into a personal loss that was too big.
How could I thank God for the death of our second child, when I was 13 weeks pregnant? After the first shock of grief wore off, I was confronted with this problem. I knew that somehow, somehow, God was calling me to have a thankful heart in the midst of this tragedy. But how?
It took a long time for the sharp edge of that pain to become dulled enough to even consider allowing God to show me how to be thankful. But eventually He led me there, (with sobs and resistance).
I came to see that there were things to be thankful for even in my grief:
- that our baby was born at home, and that I was able to see himI am not suggesting putting on a happy smile, and making bad things look good. I am talking about true thankfulness in the midst of tragedy. About real life, real pain, and really being thankful.
- that his death dropped me to my knees so hard that my life was turned toward God in a new way forever
- that I know in a deeply personal way what it means to be comforted in the arms of Jesus
- that I can minister to and love women who experience miscarriage in a much more personal way
So, when people go around the table and count their blessings, are you going to pipe up with one of your worst experiences of the year? Not likely!
But in your quiet time (or your noisy time, as my time with God often is), take a moment to open your heart to thankfulness. Pick something that is heavy on you right now, a burden that you feel you can't bear, and ask God to show you what to be thankful for in that situation.
Watch and see what He will do!
Praying that you will find the abundance hidden in your sorrows....