"This way of seeing our Father in everything makes life one long thanksgiving and gives a rest of heart, and, more than that, a gayety of spirit that is unspeakable."
–Hannah Whitall Smith
"As I look back over fifty years of ministry, I recall innumerable tests, trials and times of crushing pain. But through it all, the Lord has proven faithful, loving, and totally true to all his promises."
"In everything give thanks" (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
This verse is so familiar, we recite it almost without thinking as an encouragement to one another in our everyday lives.
However, like a woodmen's axe, the reality of life has a way of splitting everything into opposing halves.
Good and Bad
Pleasure and Pain
Joy and Sorrow
The front half of the "everything" is easy. Thankful for the birth of a child. For great health. Family. A good job.
The backside of the "everything" is more difficult. The death of a loved one. Cancer. Divorce. A job lost. The empty chair at the head of the table from which dad said the Thanksgiving prayer just last year.
It's hard to get our hearts and emotions around thanking God for the dark days, for pain, or overwhelming loss.
What's interesting is that our Father does not ask us to. He asks us in Thessalonians 5:18 to be thankful in the midst of those things.
Consider the life of Jeremiah. His autobiography recorded in Lamentations 3 paints a dismal portrait of his journey.
Affliction. Darkness. Flesh wasting away. Broken bones. Bitterness. Hardship. Chains. Crooked paths. Bears. Lions. Arrows. Mocking. Rejection.
Reflecting on all of this, Jeremiah bemoans, "I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me." (Lamentations 3:20 NIV)
Too often, the tapestries of our own lives have the same threads woven through them. But, in the midst of despair, hope always emerges. Jeremiah calls to mind an eternal truth upon which all thanksgiving has its foundation… "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end." (vs. 22 ESV)
Every trial that enters your life comes through the doorway of the steadfast love of the Lord. It involves love that emanates from an eternally wise Father. "It is He who made the earth by His power, who established the world by His wisdom…" (Jeremiah 10:12 ESV) Isaiah adds that the
Lord of Hosts is "wonderful in counsel and excellent in wisdom." (Isaiah 28:29 ESV)
God is infinitely wise. His steadfast love endures forever. These are separate truths which are inseparable.
And they are truths that transform trials into thanksgiving.
When life is not the way it is supposed to be…when the wheels come off…when looking up is the only choice you have, because you are flat on your back…be thankful.
Be thankful that God is infinitely wise. Be thankful that His steadfast love never ceases and endures forever.
In the midst of everything—give thanks. It will turn your life around.
And your Thanksgiving.