We all know the scene. The family is gathered together around Thanksgiving dinner. Some have come from far away, and some have come from right across the street to enjoy a meal together and catch up on life. Before one can dig in, though, grace is said, and, if you were part of a family who did this, you took turns going around the table giving thanks for various things in your life–from family, friends, school going well, good health, God’s provision, a roof over your head, food on your plates, and so much more. There are so many verses throughout the Bible that talk about how you should always remain persistent in prayer and how God will always answer your prayers. There is no surprise that oftentimes these verses are often followed up immediately with instructions to express thankfulness.
Now, with that being said, true thankfulness is so much deeper than being thankful for the material possessions that you have or the moments that bring a smile to your face. Yes, God is a God who answers prayers and is capable of miraculous things. After all, Jesus was able to feed a huge crowd with nothing more than a few loaves of bread and some fish. However, at the end of the day, some things will just not go our way, and we tend to become very frustrated because we can’t understand why things happened the way they did. James 1:2-4 says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
As hard and crazy as it sounds, it is in these moments, too, that we should be expressing thankfulness and joy. Yes, even in those moments where you feel like there is nothing you could possibly be thankful for. As cliche as it sounds, God’s will is always above our own. I remember one particular moment my freshman year of college. I was a young biology major on the pre-med route who just wasn’t really enjoying how things were going. It was after my first semester of college when I found myself really questioning a career choice that I was so set on for a majority of my life and then turning away from a future that my parents wanted for me. How am I, a first-generation college student for my family, going to switch from a safe and luxurious career in the medical field and instead pursue a degree in English? My parents and many of my family members had that same thought, and I couldn’t help but feel as if I was bringing a great shame to my family. It consumed me, and those next couple of semesters were very difficult for me.
In that moment, I felt that there wasn’t anything I could possibly be thankful for. At that moment, all I felt was heartache. I saw no lessons learned or how this situation could have possibly been used for any good. Fast forward a couple years, I graduated and am loving the field of work I’m in. More importantly, when I had a friend going through the same situation, feeling the same heartache, and not knowing what to do, I was able to step in and share my own personal experience. It gave him something that I didn’t have back then, which was hope.
No matter the situation, Christians will always have something they can always be thankful for, and that is the Gospel. That is, if we put our faith in Christ and Christ alone, no matter what happens on this Earth, we have secured our spot in Heaven for eternity. Bad moments are simply that–moments in our lives that for a period bring hurt and sadness. For your life, though, it brings lessons and helps you grow and strengthen. It may be years until you learn these lessons, but trust in the God that is all-knowing and loving, and be thankful for that. It is important to, in your mountains, give thanks. It is just as important that, while you are in your valleys, you are doing the same thing: having a true heart of thankfulness.