Why is it so much easier to feel sorry for yourself than to be thankful? Why is it so hard to develop an attitude of thankfulness?
Maybe it’s the constant bombardment of marketing with everything we “need” and “deserve,” but we don’t have. And then there is that anxiety that bubbles up each time a friend or family member or that random girl that I met at a party two years ago posts a personal proclamation on social media.
“Just signed the papers for our first home!”
“Marrying the love of my life today!”
“Walking down a cobblestone street in bella Italy!!! 🙂 🙂 :)”
It’s not that I begrudge them for their good fortune; it’s just that I don’t know why can’t I have some of it, too! Cue the whining.
I’ve been riding an emotional rollercoaster for the last year. After many years of (im)patiently waiting on God, it seemed that He was finally showing me His plan for my life. And it was beautiful, wonderful and crazy-scary! And then, well, it apparently wasn’t God’s plan for me after all. I was bewildered, lost in a tangle of confusion and disappointment. Why would God show me such magnificent possibilities only to snatch them away from me?
I would like to tell you that I gave myself a pep talk and moved on with my life, but here I am months later, still struggling with this situation, unable to figure it out. But here’s what I do know: I believe with all my heart that God works for the good of His children. And He has been teaching me a lesson through all of this. The subject of thankfulness has come up time and time again in my devotions and Bible reading. I never noticed how much the Bible talks about being thankful!
God has been moving me to look beyond my melancholy to recognize how much I have to be thankful for. I am so blessed in so many ways. Many nights when I have found myself overwhelmed by self-pity, I start concentrating on thanking God. Once I started focusing on God’s goodness, it wasn’t hard to continue.
But I still needed to move beyond simply thanking God for the obvious blessings that He has given. Scripture makes it clear that we are to thank God at all times. Check out these verses (emphasis added):
Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:20, ESV).
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Colossians 3:17, ESV).
Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thessalonians 5:18, ESV). Tweet This
This determination to be thankful reminds me of Corrie Ten Boom, a Christian held in a concentration camp during World War II. Even in their miserable circumstances, Corrie and her sister chose to be grateful by thanking God for everything they could think of — even the fleas in their barracks! And I also think of Paul, who could still give praise and thanks to God when he was imprisoned, rejected, beaten and persecuted.
I have always admired the indomitable spirit of these saints, but it just seemed unattainable for the average person like me to truly “give thanks in all circumstances.” Then again, if these people were able to thank God in the midst of incredible hardships and suffering, surely I could be thankful in my mere disappointment and discouragement.
So I have started thanking God for this disappointment in my life. Seems kind of counterintuitive, doesn’t it? But I feel sure that God has a greater purpose for the events of this past year. Someday, I hope that I can look back and understand why God led me down that path. For right now, I’m making the choice to thank Him without knowing exactly why.
Corrie made that choice, and later God showed her exactly why she could thank Him for fleas: They kept the camp guards out of the barracks, allowing Corrie and her sister to freely speak the Gospel into the lives of the other inmates. Paul made the choice to be thankful, and God used his suffering to spread His message throughout the Roman Empire. We can always trust that our faithful God can use any circumstance for His glory.
I can’t pretend that I understand why God does things the way He does, but I have found that when I am hanging onto the edge of uncertainty, I am forced to trust in God’s goodness and faithfulness more and more. Honestly, it’s not the most comfortable position in which to give thanks. Even still, I am making the decision to be grateful to God in all circumstances, even if I don’t understand why I am thanking Him.
Rebecca Beam works as a curriculum developer and enjoys singing, reading, hiking and serving with other God-lovers in her wonderful church.
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