By SUZANNE STAMBOULIEH
As Thanksgiving approaches, we are often appropriately reminded to be thankful. When things are going smoothly in life, being thankful is easy. But, let’s face it, life can be hard and being thankful can sometimes be a challenging task. Sometimes, we can focus so much on what is going wrong in our lives that we lose sight of the many blessings God has given us!
What does God say about being thankful? He tells us to “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you,” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NIV).
How can we rejoice always when we are facing a trial in life? Well, rejoicing—or expressing joy—is different from happiness. You may not be happy with how things are in your life because happiness is sometimes contingent on life circumstances. But joy is deeper than happiness. Joy is not contingent on life circumstances, and it is unique in that it not only comes from the Lord, but also is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). And as Christians, we can be joyful despite ever-changing life circumstance because we know ultimately we have God.
Secondly, God instructs us to pray without ceasing. God wants you to be in constant communication with Him. He wants to know the desires of your heart, but more importantly, He desires a personal relationship with you. Quiet time with Him is crucial because this is when He often reveals things to us. Unfortunately, when we are going through a life crisis and need him most, our prayer time often takes a back seat for one reason or another. Personally, I tend to analyze and wonder “why me, why now, etc.” It is easy to question God and His plan during these times—and yes, the answers to “why” questions may give us a sense of peace at times—but God does not always reveal these answers to us. However, we can find comfort that He always reveals the “how” to us. “How can I get through this?” The answer is always the same—through Him and no other way! Drawing near to God each day and resting in the “how” can usually help us to have a clearer vision and allows us to see the “why” that God is revealing to us.
Finally, we are instructed to give thanks in everything. He does not say give thanks only “when things are going well in your life.” So, how do you do this? As Christians, regardless of whether we are suffering emotionally or physically, we still have so much to be thankful for! Thankfully, we are saved by His grace (Ephesians 2:8-9) and we will spend eternal life in Heaven. And, although it may seem like the pain is too great and you just can’t take anymore, God says he will not give you more than you can take (1 Corinthians 10:13), and he will give you the strength to get through it (Philippians 4:13).
Some practical ways to show your thankfulness and grateful heart are to ask what you can do for others in an effort to give back. Giving takes the focus off you and elicits feelings of gratitude within the giver and the recipient. It can also inspire others who hear about it to be thankful.
Another idea is to make it a habit each day to thank God for at least three non-material things in your life. I personally think the most important thing to remember is to not compare your life with others! God has great plans for you, but they are not the same as what He has for someone else (Jeremiah 29:11). Often, comparing your blessings to those of someone else only fosters jealousy and resentment, instead of the realization that you have truly been blessed.
Regardless of where you are in life, I encourage you to draw near to Him and focus on the many blessings that He has bestowed upon you. You just never know how He will change your heart or what He will reveal to you during the process.