We give thanks for all that we believe is good, worthy, and deserving of praise. We are thankful for those who love us, for our jobs if we love them, for kids if we have them, for materialistic things that we think life is hard to manage without. But what happens when trial comes? How are we thankful then?
How do we remain thankful and not let circumstances wreck all that is still good?
Living in Ohio for three years, during my developmental stages as a teenager from when I was ten until I was thirteen, were the hardest years of my life. Everything was blurry, no memory is vivid. I was fighting for my own self worth against all that I believed deemed me invaluable and I couldn’t even see it all clearly. In the loneliest season of my life, where my family was in the depths of being broken and disconnected, I remained unthankful, angry, and closed off towards nearly anything and everyone. I don’t remember a single Thanksgiving in those three years, or any given day for that matter, where I was thankful for these trials of brokenness, heartache, pain, rejection, and failure. I wasn’t even thankful for small things that I should have been. In those moments, I guess it is hard to be thankful for trials that seem to be breaking us down bit by bit, until we reach the other side and realize the beauty in which we were carried.
The Thessalonians were different. In first Thessalonians Paul is overwhelmed with gratitude for the people of Thessalonica. He was so pleased that the people he had been praying for, the people who had hit trial and difficult circumstances, stood firm in their faith and remained in the will of The Lord. Paul encouraged them with this verse:
Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Be thankful in ALL circumstances…sometimes we don’t know how we can be.
My dad has always told me what any daddy would say trying to reassure his daughter in the middle of her apocalyptic and slightly frightening breakdowns,
“Try to look on the bright side”.
It sounds so typical and very half-hearted, but I believe this was his way of trying to tell me that what seems to be a trial now may be a triumph later. It will be a triumph whether this fades or passes or whether it turns into something greater. The triumph comes knowing that you made it through regardless of what the outcome may be.
What happens when we are thankful and grateful and present through these trials is that our hearts have peace. We may not be joyous, but we have hope and reassurance that this season will pass, this difficulty might bruise and scrape our knees but there is a bright, astounding, warm light that we make the choice whether we see or not, that will reflect hope back into our eyes if we let it.
Looking back, I am so thankful for all the circumstances that have been presented to me. I am thankful for all that has been good, all the love I have received, all the opportunity, all the people in my life who make community so much better, for the places I love…but I am thankful for more than what is good and worthy of praise.
I am also thankful for the difficulties, for the days where I have only been carried through by the tender heart of Jesus. I am thankful for the trials that have turned into triumphs, and all the trials that still remain, because it is rooted in my soul that there is a Truth, and a Love that perseveres and challenges my heart to trust deeply.
Our gratitude and thankfulness are not limited. They have the capability to remain through all, any, and every moment. More than just one day a year, for one prayer, one dinner conversation.
…we too can always be thankful.