It’s almost Thanksgiving and lately, that spirit of gratitude is shining forth everywhere you look! The average American is excitedly breaking out his (or her) winter coat for this first time. He’s thrilled with the presidential election results- although he wishes both candidates could be in office, they’re so great. As far as he can tell, America is getting along swimmingly! So much so, that he recently canceled his Netflix subscription because, why spend so much time in the world of sitcoms when there are beautiful people to meet and awesome conferences at work he wants to attend…ok…catch my sarcasm?
The truth is, for a country that’s only four days away from Thanksgiving, we seem awfully preoccupied with negative news and Christmas shopping and complaining about the weather. In reality, I’m probably the worst offender when it comes to weather complaints… (but I live in the midwest, so can you really blame me?) Apart from that, I feel like I’m a generally grateful person. That’s why, the past few weeks, I’ve had the worst time deciding what to write for my next blog post. Every Thanksgiving-focused idea I thought of was redundant and overdone. Besides, I reckoned there really wasn’t much to this “thankfulness” stuff. What’s a girl to say other than “think about all your blessings and enjoy the turkey!”
Then, I got my answer.
Last week, the chronic tightness in my calf became worse and my opposite foot began to ache as well. That made for some painful runs and a heck-of-a-lot of rehab and ice cupping. Suddenly, thrown off of equilibrium. And I was cranky to say the least! In that irritation and pain, I realized that I wasn’t as much of an expert on gratitude as I would like to think.
The Bible says we are to “Count it all joy” when we face trials of various kinds (James 1:2).” And my buddy Paul says we should rejoice in our trials because trials are used to deepen our faith and test our character (Romans 5:3). Well, that’s great. It sounds super spiritual and exciting. But I think many of us have missed the message here.
How many of us can truly say we are joyful when life doesn’t go our way? Hardly! We’re typically angry and bitter and self-absorbed. All in all, we tend to substitute “joy” for “tolerance.” That illness? We’ll get through it. The job loss? Just grit your teeth and start interviewing. Yes, we tolerate our trials. Why? Because we’re pretty sure the awful times can’t last forever if we just put our head down and march on.
But is that really faith? Is that really gratitude?
To enter into real grateful, we must look from an eternal perspective. See, when we choose gratitude, we’re essentially saying: “Come what may, the Lord will use this to draw me nearer to Him.” With that mindset, whether the outcome is what we would like or not, we cannot lose. In the words of Ryan Hall: “If we have thankful hearts, we are untouchable.”
So what does gratitude in trial look like? It’s teary smiles and journaled prayers. Gratitude during trial is getting down on our knees, proclaiming the Lord’s faithfulness to our own doubting ears. It doesn’t mean we have to love what we are going through, but we can genuinely love the outcome it will bring. And we are assured, as followers of Christ, that it will be good! Like a mother enduring the birth of a child, we can confidently say “this is worth it!”
Before you revel in the goodness of family and food this holiday, is there something you need to release to the Lord? Is there a trial you are merely tolerating? I know there was for me. But instead of burying the fear under other gratitudes, we can proclaim joy over every aspect of life. For God is in everything. And God is oh so good, friends. If you’re like me, it’ll take frequent effort on your part. But as we embrace the joys of tribulation, we will reap more and more of the spiritual harvest. No wonder Paul said what he did! Trial produces friction in our lives, spurring us on in faith. So with tears and pain and brokenness: Let us give thanks for ALL things.