Thursday, November 24, 2011

Finding Thankfulness in Tough Times

Picture courtesy of  Martha Carter

Hi friends! Hope you and your family are enjoying the holiday. Thanksgiving is often overlooked in the rush to get to the Christmas season, but it is one of my favorite holidays of all. 

Here's a Thanksgiving post I wrote for another blog a couple of years ago . . . 

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

As I read this verse, I have to admit that I have had some trouble with joy and thankfulness lately. The past year has been tough. Our family has experienced many challenges. Many of you have had your own heartaches and sorrows and my heart aches with yours.

1 Thessalonians tells us to be joyful always and to give thanks in all circumstances. Apparently, joy and thankfulness have little to do with the state of our circumstances, and more to do with the state of our hearts and our attitudes. A grateful heart does not necessarily have to be thankful for the situation, but is to be thankful in the situation.

Thanksgiving is an expression of gratitude and joy Godward regardless of our circumstance. It is an intentional choice not based on feeling but on the knowledge of who God is, what He has already done, and what He is accomplishing for us through Jesus Christ. It is believing in advance that God is working all things for our good. (James 1:4-5; Romans 8:28).

I have learned that when I become frustrated with my situation, it is because I have a lack of TRUST in God and His ability to work all things for the good of those who love Him - for the good of me and my family. My lack of trust leads to frustration.

The truth is that God can be trusted. He works behind the scenes in ways we cannot imagine. He doesn't owe us anything, but He provides us with everything we need. His hand of blessing is always upon our heads. (Psalm 139:5) Everything He provides is a gift. (James 1:17) He passes through the raging waters with us. (Isaiah 43:2) His power exceeds all others. (Isaiah 46:9-10)

In this world, staying in constant fellowship with God is essential to maintaining a joyful, thank-filled heart so Paul tells us to pray continually. Through prayer, God ministers sweetly to our souls and shapes us to His will. The passage in Thessalonians lets us know that it is His will for us to be thankful.

Recently, my daily Bible study instructed me to go to God in prayer reflecting on His goodness to me. It also asked me to consider how I have responded to His goodness lately and the ways I have taken it for granted. Ouch! I felt like a girl with her hand caught in the forbidden cookie jar. I went to God in prayer knowing already that I was failing pretty miserably in this area. Truth is (and I am ashamed to admit this), I hadn't wanted to focus much on my blessings because I think I just wanted to be mad at God for all that had been happening in our lives. In that private place of prayer, God lovingly took me into His arms and tenderly comforted my heart. He gently led me to get a pad of paper and a pen and to begin listing all of my blessings. Well . . . it was a legal pad of paper and I wrote - and wrote - and wrote filling pages of paper. I wrote until my hand grew too tired to write anymore. We have a most generous and loving God. He is all good all the time. I am very thankful for the ways He teaches me.

"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 5:19b-20.

A warm and grateful heart is such an incredible blessing. I pray that God will help you find that place in your heart today. Here's an idea you can use to teach thankfulness to your family. It has really been meaningful to ours. Hope it brings you joy.

Each year I set out a small basket with a framed sign beside it that says:

Blessing Basket
"Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise,
give thanks to Him and praise His name.
For the Lord is good and His love endures forever;
His faithfulness continues through all generations.
Psalm 100:4-5

Place a stack of paper and a pen beside the basket in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. Each person who passes through your home has the opportunity to record the things they are thankful for on the paper then places them in the basket. At our Thanksgiving meal, we pass the basket around the table and take turns reading a "blessing" from the basket. It is a rich and wonderful experience! After the holiday, I save the written blessings in a bag marked with the year. Those of you who are crafty could include these in a scrapbook.


Wishing a happy Thanksgiving to my friends in America - and hearts filled with gratitude to us all!