“Give thanks in all circumstances.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
It’s an easy phrase to say, but a hard one to live out. Because what if those “circumstances” aren’t exactly pleasant. What if they’re painful? What if they’re, in fact, excruciating?
We like to sit around the Thanksgiving table and reminisce about the things we’re grateful for. And don’t get me wrong, I think that’s wonderful. I love that once a year, everyone comes together over a steaming, savory feast and shares what they’re grateful for. New babies, weddings, a job promotion, an exquisite vacation to Fiji, or what have you.
But have you ever heard phrases like this at Thanksgiving….
- “I’m thankful for losing my job.”
- “I’m thankful for the fractured relationships in my life.”
- “I’m thankful for the financial difficulties this year.”
- “I’m thankful for the insanely hard workload I had.”
- “I’m thankful for the rejection I faced.”
The irony is that the things that were most agonizing for us, are probably the things that grew us the most. They’re the things that gave us a new perspective on life, showed us what our true priorities should be, and helped us become a more genuine, loving, and compassionate person.
(And just as a sidenote: I can legitimately say “thanks” for all 5 of the bullet points I wrote above…)
- Losing my job led me to a much better job, where I can spend far more time with my family.
- The fractured relationships showed me which relationships matter most, and where we should invest our “relational time,” so to speak.
- The financial difficulties taught me to trust God amidst uncertainty, and helped me empathize more with others in similar situations.
- The stressful workload taught me to manage my time better, work more efficiently, and create systems and routines to increase productivity.
- The rejection kept me from taking on too many extra responsibilities, which would’ve created even more stress and hardship in our lives.
So yes… by all means, give thanks for the vacation time, the football, the deep-fried turkey, the pecan pie, and the butter-infused gravy (or whatever else you eat on Thanksgiving). But don’t forget to give thanks for the painful stuff, too. It’s what molds you into the person Jesus created you to be. It’s what shapes your character, changes your outlook on life, and helps you become a wiser, more generous, more gracious, and more loving individual.
Give thanks in all circumstances.