When Your Gratitude is Tested
1 Thessalonians 5:18
If anyone knew what thanksgiving meant, it was the first hardy souls who stepped onto American soil. Those first few years in the New World were brutal. Harsh winters and a lack of food saw many men, women, and children perish. On the surface, there was nothing to be thankful for.
And yet, they saw fit to set aside time to celebrate God’s goodness. To worship the giver of all good things, even though it seemed as if He had forgotten them. They embodied the words of Paul, written in imprisonment, “In everything give thanks.”
Everything. I’m guessing not everyone reading this devotional will have a ready list of things for which to praise God. For many it has been a hard, difficult year. There have been divorces, betrayals, abandonments, job losses, breakups, deaths, scandals, abuse, anger, injustice.
For some the idea of gratitude seems like a cold request from a God who seems to have abandoned them. And yet, the Scriptures call us to “give thanks in everything.”
We can only summon the strength to gratitude when we understand the goodness of a sovereign God. James reminds us that God uses our trials to shape our character, so that the perfect life of Christ is worked out in us. He has the courage to tell Christians to consider the hard sufferings as opportunities for joy. And when you understand how God is in firm control and shapes our discomfort for our good and His glory, you can begin to “give thanks” even in bad times.
I think this is what those Pilgrims were after. In fact, it is in the crucible of their hardship that Thanksgiving as an idea was born. And in our own lives, it is in the blast furnace of difficulty that the concept of gratitude is tested, where our faith becomes real and tangible.
Thanksgiving isn’t some cheesy, two-dollar Christian smile for Sunday. It’s a wry, settled, deep sense of God’s goodness. It’s a faith in the beauty of God’s sovereign will. It’s trusting God even when there is no tangible evidence.
This year you might not have much to put on your Thanksgiving list, at least at the first. But as you drawn into Jesus and glimpse His love for you, you’ll realize everything you ever needed you already have in Him.
Daniel Darling is an author, pastor, and public speaker. His latest book is Crash Course, Forming a Faith Foundation for Life. Visit him on Facebook by clicking here, follow on him on Twitter at twitter.com/dandarling, or check out his website: danieldarling.com.