I sat in my chair with my Bible and my coffee this morning thinking about how hard it is to be thankful in the middle of a very difficult trial. When I face darkness and am struggling to make sense of the challenges I’m working through, oftentimes the very last thing I think about is being thankful. What is there to be thankful for in the middle of sorrow, pain or loss?
In his letter to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (4:7)
As I read this verse this morning I kept asking myself how. How can I be thankful when I just don’t feel thankful? I found myself wondering why God allows the really hard things to happen and then tells us to be thankful in the middle of it all. That’s a pretty tall order. “Here’s a really hard thing for you to do, maybe the hardest thing you’ve ever done. It’s gonna hurt. You’re gonna cry. But hey, say thank you.” Really?
I started praying and asking God these questions, just pouring out my sorrow and frustration, sharing the pain I feel and asking Him to help me understand. That verse in Philippians kept coming back to my mind … “Do not be anxious, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Over and over that same verse. I began to realize that no where in that verse did it tell me to be thankful FOR every situation, but rather IN every situation. You’re probably asking what’s the difference and thinking I’m just splitting hairs, but I believe there really is a difference.
I’ve been helping my parents as they go through some health issues that have me concerned for each of them. I’ve never been one to worry about things very much – I wholly trust God in everything, so I was perplexed as to why this is bothering me so much. And then it dawned on me that these two people whom I have loved dearly my entire life are getting older and will one day “ride off into the sunset” as my mother says. I don’t know that I’ll ever be ready for that.
Thinking about that made Paul’s words so much more clear – “IN every situation”. I realized that I have many things to be thankful for IN this situation – not that my parents’ health is changing, but that I am able to be here for them. I thought about how I sat with Dad at his doctor appointments yesterday and realized that it was the first time in many years that we spent a whole day together. Sure, I’d rather have spent it doing something more fun with him, but that hasn’t been possible for a long time, and yet yesterday we had the whole day to be together. I thought about how I have been going to their house twice a day for several weeks to help Mom; I normally spend time with her once or twice a month. I was reminded how much God has truly blessed me with the ability to care for them and the time to be there with them and I am eternally thankful to Him for that gift.
I’m sure you’ve heard that old saying about looking for the silver lining; someone always seems to toss that out in conversation when we share that we’re going through a rough patch. Well, I’m challenging you to do just that. Take a step back from the daily grind of your problem and look for the blessing that God put in there. I guarantee you there is one and you’ve just been so caught up in your stress and strife that you haven’t seen it. When you do finally see it, whisper a prayer of thanks to God for that bit of silver and ask Him to help you solve that thing, whatever it may be.
Heavenly Father, thank you for my parents and their love for me. Thank you for the gift of this very special time with them and for the ability to love and care for them in their time of need. Please lay Your hand upon them and let them know You are with them and that You love them. Give them refuge under Your wing and show them Your salvation. Heal them from their illness and fill them with Your peace. In Jesus’ Holy Name I pray, Amen.