Can we thank God in our hard times?

Sooner or later we discover that life is a series of highs and lows.

Each of us would choose the highs and toss out the lows. If we could.

Blog. Pensive woman. 11.17Everything reminds us it's the season to rejoice, but perhaps right now it takes all we've got just to get through the day.  

Looking back brings sadness.

Looking ahead brings fear.

Some may be waiting out results of medical tests, our own or someone we love. Or we know what the tests reveal--and wish we didn't.

Or it could be job loss. Marriage problems. Strained relationships with family members. The uncertainties of aging. The anxiety that rises in our throat every month as we total up expenses.  

Hardest of all is the grief after a loved one dies. People talk about "closure," as if one shuts the door and that's it. Not true. Hearts thankful for happy memories can still ache, still feel empty. Even for Christians.

Silence is not always golden.

Whatever the cause we ache to feel joy once again

Despite what we see around us, some of us may not feel much like giving thanks or singing "Joy to the world."

Yes, we know hard times come to all of us,. Knowing that doesn't help much.

Perhaps we blush to remember times we told others in pain that the Lord helps those who help themselves. Now it's our turn--and we've tried. We may have prayed until our throat went dry and scratchy.

Maybe we've given up because nothing changes. 

Ever since Eden we live in a messed-up world 

That's plain to see, yet God in the Bible assures us that trouble does not mean God stopped loving us. He never will.

The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness."    Jeremiah 31:3-4  NIV

"Everlasting." Love that has no beginning and no end. 

Another verse well-loved by many promises everything that happens to us has a purpose, one way or another.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good for those who are called according to his purpose.    Romans 8:28  ESV

What could be "good" about a hard time?

Try these, for starters:

  • We may not know the answer to that question for awhile, but God does.
  • It may be good, even though it does not feel good to us.
  • Without a doubt every challenging experience will stretch us and change us.

Do I like this process? Not at all. I want my life to be smooth as a mountain lake at dawn.

Over the years I've learned not to blame God for causing my problems. Does He allow them? It seems so, but always to teach and grow me, not to beat me up and then walk away. 

This leaves us with the obvious question to ask ourselves: How will I handle this?

We can fight the situation and complain and grow bitter. Or we can grow stronger. We can become a person with more empathy and understanding for the pain of others.

Always, the choice is ours.

The Pilgrims show us how to live

Paintings of that first Thanksgiving show the artists' concepts of the scene, but none can depict the emotions of that day.

When we look on happy settlers and friendly Native Americans gathered around a huge table loaded with food we assume joy ruled the day. After all, the year's bountiful food supply was safely stored away for winter so they could rejoice and be glad.  

What isn't shown is the deep grief that shadowed that first Thanksgiving gathering.  

The Mayflower left Britain loaded with 110 passengers and crew. By that first Thanksgiving about a year later, only 50 people survived. Only three families that boarded that ship remained intact.

And yet they thanked God.

Instead of getting stuck in mourning what and whom they lost, they turned their eyes and their hearts to what remained--and gave thanks to God.

What if we took our cues from them?

Whatever our situation may be, we, too, can entrust our lives to our Father's loving care and be at peace. 

We can rejoice and celebrate what is.

How do we do that if at the moment, our joy has dwindled and our hope has dried up? Still we can wrap ourselves in the unfailing warmth of God's love for us and be comforted. 

This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.  Psalm 107:1  KJV                     

Inward peace and joy do not depend on things going right for us. They flow out of knowing for certain that Jesus loves us. His Spirit is with us, every moment of every day.

Jesus answered him, "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him."    John 14:23  ESV

As the old advertising slogan told us, "It's what's inside that counts" 

My friend, you have all you need to deal with whatever comes. Today. Tomorrow. Always.  

How do we get through the weeks ahead?

  • Breathe--and rejoice that you are able to  
  • Refuse to keep reciting that familiar list of "What ifs" 
  • Let yourself feel joy because you know who's really in control

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.   Philippians 4:7  ESV

For each of us, lasting joy and peace that come from trusting Jesus is the gift that we can rely on. Whatever the day brings.  

So let us give thanks to the Giver. Let us rejoice and be glad!


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