How easy was Thanksgiving for you? I’m not talking about preparing the meal or even getting along with a difficult relative. Was it hard for you to stop and thank God for all of the good things he has done for you?
Perhaps you’ve fallen out of the habit. You used to think about God. You used to be aware that every good thing in your life came ultimately from him, but now has it slipped out of your mind? Has what started as mere forgetfulness turned into a habit of ingratitude?
Perhaps you are bitter against God. In the past I have run into people that have experienced tragedies, who have turned their sorrow into anger, and directed it against God. When you look at life through such lenses, it is especially tough to see God’s goodness and his blessings in spite of the circumstances that he allowed in the past.
Ultimately, isn’t a lack of thankfulness pride? Pride says, “I am responsible for the good things in my life.” Pride forgets God and others and directs attention at itself. Who has time for thanksgiving, when you can spend it thinking about yourself?
Even those who have suffered real tragedies in the past are in danger of becoming proud. They think they know what is best. Their plans are better than what God allowed. Why should they humble themselves before their sovereign Creator and say thanks, when they are smarter than God himself?
Thanksgiving Day was a great day to get humble and get thankful. Even those who have suffered the most or have had the toughest of years have much to be thankful for. The Bible says, “in everything give thanks (1 Thessalonians 5:18). That sounds pretty comprehensive doesn’t it? Great things, good things, fun things, and even hard things fall into the scope of things for which we need to give thanks.
If we can be thankful in the toughest of times, I think we’ll have an easier time having a grateful heart in all times. If even last week found your family in a severe time of testing, I hope you could still give thanks on Thanksgiving. Let’s consider several things to be thankful for in very hard times.
First, thank God that he is in absolute control of the situation. Nothing in this life touches a person that does not first go through God’s sovereign hands. “The LORD has established His throne in the heavens; And His sovereignty rules over all” (Psalm 103:19). God’s sovereignty over a horrible situation does not imply that God is responsible for the sin in the situation. He does, however, allow the situation to occur for his greater overall purposes.
Second, thank God, if you are a Christian, that God is using this situation in your life for ultimate good. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
While this promise does not insure that bad events will never happen to a true believer, it certainly guarantees that each event that occurs will be worked together for ultimate good. The next two verses in Romans 8 describe this good as the believer being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. James 1:2-6 echoes the same message, as James commands us to consider trials to be joyful, knowing that God is using them to make us like Jesus. For this great truth, we can thank God in the tough times.
Third, when you are in a difficult situation, thank God for his promises. Not only can we thank him that he is in control of the situation, and that he is at work in the situation, we can thank God for his promises to us to get us through the situation.
While the Bible is full of precious promises, two can be cited as examples. 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.” This promise assures the believer that God controls the nature of the trial, the duration of the trial, and that God provides the power to endure the tough time without sinning. This one verse offers an assortment of items for which to thank God.
A second promise is found at the end of Hebrews 13:5, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.” Thank God for the promise of his presence. No matter how tough the trial, he himself is with you in the middle of it.
Finally, thank God that you are not getting what you deserve. As you look around, things may seem hopeless, and life may seem to be collapsing on top of you. But when you consider God’s awesome holiness and your lifestyle of rebellious thoughts, attitudes, and actions (even as a Christian), you deserve nothing but unbridled hell for all of eternity. Only through God’s gracious forgiveness through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ do any of us escape the horrible consequences that we truly deserve. Recalling this truth should make us eternally grateful to the Lord, no matter what situation we find ourselves in.
Even if you know you weren’t as thankful on Thanksgiving Day, it is not too late to turn on an attitude of gratitude. Strive to maintain a year-round thankful heart. Even the tough times fall within the scope of the command to give thanks in everything (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Giving thanks acknowledges God as the source of all of the blessings of life (see James 1:17). It reminds us of his goodness, and his purpose in all the events of life. Being thankful is also a humble acknowledgment that he is God and we are not, and that is certainly the case.
By John Crotts