For most of us, this year has been filled with challenges and difficulties.
How can we be thankful in difficult times?
Pastor Alexander Whyte, from the last century, had a reputation of always being thankful. His thankfulness was always evident in his pulpit prayers.
The story is told of a time in Edinburgh when the weather and storms had been exceptionally bad. The congregation wondered how their pastor could be thankful in these circumstances.
But that Sunday morning Pastor Alexander began his prayer, “We thank Thee, O God, that it is not always like this.”
Sometimes circumstances of life may be so bad and out of control that the only thank you we can offer is––"Thank you, God, that it is not always like this." But the thing we need to remember is that our communication with God must include thanksgiving, no matter how bad our circumstances are.
There are two important aspects to remember about thanksgiving––even in difficult circumstances.
The Object of Thanksgiving
What are you thankful for?
Is your thankfulness is self–centered?
When I look at the main focus of my thankfulness, it is for the physical things God has done for me. Material things He has given me, my health, my skill and abilities, and my relationships.
Now, don’t misunderstand me, we need to be thankful for all these things––they are gifts from God. He has given us these gifts to us to be used for His purposes.
Psalm 119, the longest Psalm in the Bible, celebrates the Torah (the first five books of the Bible). The Psalmist says he values and is more thankful for God’s Word than for silver and gold (Psalm 119:14, 72, 127). The Psalmist valued the Law more than gold and silver.
How much more thankful should we be? We have much more to be thankful for than the Psalmist. We have God’s full revelation––the written Word; we have an example to follow––the living Word; we have empowerment from within––the Holy Spirit.
We need to be thankful for all that I mentioned above. By being thankful for what and who God is, for being thankful for our relationship to Him we can be thankful no matter what the physical circumstances of our lives.
The Purpose of Thanksgiving
A continuous heart of gratefulness is important to our spiritual growth. When we thank God, especially in the difficult times, it demonstrates we see life from His perspective. This is the purpose of discipleship that the student sees things as his teacher (Luke 6:40).
Thanking God is an essential element of stewardship. When we thank God we recognize Him as God. If we are not thankful we are positioning ourselves as a god by saying we are in control. When we are not thankful we are beginning a spiral that takes us farther and farther away from God (Romans 1:21-25).
James tells us we are to be in a difficult situation because that is part of the process that makes us complete and perfect (James 1: 2-4).
But how can I be thankful for difficult situations?
The first way we have already seen, changing the object of our thanksgiving from the material to the spiritual.
The second is by realizing that God has provided a way out of the difficulties (1 Corinthians 10:13).
David Soper in his book God Is Inescapable said, the only difference between a prison and a monastery is the difference between griping and gratitude.
Are you living in a prison or a monastery?
If you are finding it difficult to be thankful try and change your perspective. List out things about God and your relation to Him you are thankful for.