Sunday, September 1, 2013

Thankfulness in Everything

~Published in the Charleston Gazette, September 1, 2013~ 

Even as intense mid-summer heat and barometric pressure wreak havoc with my sinuses and my head throbs – today, I count my blessings.

Yesterday, I saw a doctor after waiting and worrying for a month about a potentially serious health threat. I asked a friend to say a prayer for me and she kindly agreed. By mid-afternoon, we were praising God and His mercy. All my worries had been unnecessary! It was suddenly a lovely day and I was thankful for my many blessings! An incident like this always reminds me of a Robert Browning poem called Pippa’s Song:

The year's at the spring,
And day's at the morn;
Morning's at seven;
The hill-side's dew-pearled;
The lark's on the wing;
The snail's on the thorn;
God's in his Heaven --
All's right with the world!

As a child growing up, I often heard my mother quote the last two lines of this poem. After a while, I understood that, when she said these words, something good had happened or soon would.

It’s so easy to be thankful and in good spirits when things go our way. Sometimes we feel we are in God’s favor. But what if things had not gone so well for me at the doctor’s office?  Suppose the news had been bad. Would I still be grateful? Or would I be murmuring and complaining and questioning God’s reasons?

Probably the latter. It’s human nature.

Can we change that? Can we learn to be thankful even when things don’t always go the way we’d like? Do we have the grace to stop complaining and questioning God’s motives – the courage to accept what He deems right for us?

We must.

The Bible commands, "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NIV).

Even in the midst of trials we can thank God, because we know that He has promised to be with us and that He will help us. We know that He can use times of suffering to draw us closer to Himself: "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance" (James 1:2-3, NIV).

When the prophet, Daniel, learned that evil men were plotting against him to destroy him, "he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before" (Daniel 6:10, NIV).

I don't know what difficulties you may be facing right now, but God does; He loves you and is with you by His Holy Spirit. That’s why it’s important to develop a spirit of thankfulness even in the midst of trouble and heartache.

We learn so much more in times of sorrow than in times of joy. Consider these words by Robert Browning Hamilton: “I walked a mile with pleasure, she chattered all the way, but left me none the wiser for all she had to say. I walked a mile with sorrow, and not a word said she… but oh, the things I learned from sorrow, when sorrow walked with me.”

If affliction causes us to learn, then we must be grateful to God for it.

When we suffer, yet keep praising God, it gives Him glory. And if God is being glorified in our life, can we not thank Him, even though we may not feel thankful at the time?

Real faith is not receiving what we want from God. It is graciously accepting what He gives us.