We find it easy to be thankful when good things happen to us. But what about when we go through tough times?
I love Thanksgiving. There’s plenty of time to spend with family and friends, lots of rest, and So. Much. Food. Platters and decorations with the word “thanks” are usually the norm, and the word is usually on our minds during this time. But is the word on our minds the other 364 days of the year?
Maybe not all 364 days, right?
Being thankful when you’re stuck in traffic or when your three-year old is throwing a tantrum is hard. Not to mention when you’re faced with the other, seemingly bigger things in life – serious financial struggles, death of a loved one, difficult illnesses, or relationship problems. These are the rough waters of life. They are like crashing waves, hitting us hard and unexpectedly, leaving us with hurting hearts and anxious minds.
Cultivating a habit of thanksgiving can really refresh our hearts and minds, not just during the good times, but especially during the hard times.
First comes gratitude…
I have many times confused the words gratitude and thanksgiving, using them interchangeably, until I heard someone say “Gratitude is what you feel, thanksgiving is what you do.”
Isn’t that so clear? Gratitude is more about what is in our hearts while thanksgiving is taking action on what is in our hearts.
It seems that gratitude gives way to thanksgiving. If “out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks,” then we can’t speak what we do not hold in our hearts.
If we want to start giving thanks with our words (and actions), we first must start being grateful for everything God is doing and has given us in our hearts. We must have hearts of gratitude to experience the refreshment of God.
Will you ask God to cultivate a heart of gratitude in you?
…then comes Thanksgiving.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, we are told to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” It is God’s will to give thanks. How many times have I prayed for God to do His will in my life, but then complained about three things in one breath? Ummm… GUILTY!
I can pray and pray, yet God has already made this part of His will clear: He wants me to give thanks. And He doesn’t just want my thanks for some things; He wants me to give thanks in ALL circumstances.
What parts of your life need a little more thanksgiving and a little less complaining? Will you ask God to help you cultivate the habit of thanksgiving?
Giving God thanks changes you
When thanksgiving is a regular occurrence in our lives, we end up changing… for the better.
We can infuse thanksgiving into our workplace, families, and even our prayer life. Philippians 4:6-7 reminds us: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Replacing our complaint-filled, negative thought life with prayer-filled, thankful thoughts and words leads us to greater peace. The peace of God acts as refreshment and protection for our minds and our hearts.
What thoughts fill your mind? What words fill your mouth? Will you ask God to help you let go of and reject that which does not lead to His peace? Will you ask Him to give you the strength to give Him thanks in all circumstances?
When we’re going through tough times, it’s that much more difficult to have gratitude in our hearts and give God thanks. But God is a good God who does not abandon us in our times of need. He has even given the tool of thanksgiving to help us have the right heart in the toughest of times. When we give God thanks in the middle of tough times, we give Him the glory and we open our hearts to His work.
If the waves keep crashing into you, refuse to complain. Instead, give thanks – write it down, speak it, share it, SHOUT IT IF YOU NEED TO! Keep giving God the glory in this way, and you’ll realize the waves are crashing you closer to the solid Rock that will not be moved. God, our firm foundation, will calm the waters. Be at peace, and be refreshed.