In the stressful and troubled world in which we live, it can seem difficult for us to find something to be thankful for. When we listen to or read the news, it is mostly bad news that is reported. We hear of crime, terrorism, tragedies, and disasters. We rush about at a hectic pace day after day, trying to keep up with the demands of modern life. And the list of problems could go on and on.
Yet, it is precisely because of the problems around us that we need to devote ourselves to giving thanks. When darkness grows around us, we cannot afford to become neglectful in this spiritual practice. Instead, we need to renew our commitment to thankfulness. In fact, being thankful can be therapeutic. It can bring healing to a troubled heart. On the other hand, a lack of thankfulness can lead to depression as we focus on negative things. However, Paul the apostle wrote that we should not let our minds dwell on negative thoughts. Instead, we should dwell on those things that are pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). When we make a practice of thanking God for His many blessings, we will be focusing on the good things He has given us, and He can begin to bring healing and strength to us.
Always Being Thankful
There are some key points to keep in mind concerning giving thanks. The first is that we should always be thankful. We should be thankful every day, not just when we attend a church service or observe a special day of thanks. This is because there is always something to be grateful for.
We always have our spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus. For example, we have been forgiven of our sins through Jesus’ death on the cross (Matthew 26:28). Despite our present imperfections, God has declared us to have right standing before Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). By God’s grace and mercy, we have been adopted as children of God (Romans 8:15). We are unconditionally loved by the Father, the Maker of heaven and earth (Romans 5:8).
In Old Testament times, the people of God would often sing something like this:
O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting. 1 Chronicles 16:34 (NASB)
There are also the temporal blessings we receive from God. He sends us rain, sunshine, and provides us with natural resources. Many of us have abundant food and more than adequate shelter. These and many other blessings are often taken for granted, but we need to have hearts full of gratitude for all of the wonderful things he has given us, whether great or small.
In All Circumstances
As mentioned above, we live in a troubled world that can threaten to overwhelm us with the pervasiveness and magnitude of its troubles. It can affect us not just in our global outlook, but also in our individual lives. But no matter how bad our circumstances may be, we can always be thankful to God. Our circumstances themselves may not always inspire thankfulness, but if we turn our thoughts to God’s many blessings, both spiritual and temporal, our hearts will again be filled with thankfulness to Him. The Apostle Paul said:
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NRSV)
Even in difficult circumstances, we should continually keep in mind that God desires to bring good out of the situation that we are in.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 (NIV)
This does not mean that every situation is good in and of itself, or that every situation leads to something good by itself. On the contrary, it is when God actively works in a situation that good can come out of it — even in the darkest of situations.
Often the good that comes out of a situation may not be readily apparent. We shouldn’t expect God to turn every outward circumstance in our favor. Instead, God often works in situations to strengthen us inwardly by His Spirit and to mold us into the image of Christ. This is brought out clearly by the context in the following verse.
“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” Romans 8:29 (NIV)
However, we need to be cooperative with what God desires to do in our hearts for the molding process to be the most effective.
by Meghan Kleppinger
“For I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11, NAS
While traveling to Chattanooga, TN a few years ago, I read the autobiography, Dorie: The Girl Nobody Loved, by Dorie Van Stone. The book retraces the past of a deeply wounded child transformed into a woman with heart on fire for the God who loves her.
As a child, Dorie was rejected and abandoned by her mother, and abused by orphanage workers, foster parents, and relatives. In the midst of a horrendous childhood filled with daily mistreatment, Dorie was introduced to the One who did love her and would never abandon her. Her life is now one that reflects not her past, but her Savior.
As I finished reading the final chapter on the plane, I shared with the Lord that I wanted to meet Dorie, give her a huge hug, and thank her for writing the book.
During my layover in Atlanta, I saw a woman resembling Dorie in one of the airport stores. I pulled the book out of my bag to compare the woman in the store with the photo on the back cover. I shook off the possibility and thought the same thing you are thinking now, “There is no way!” I proceeded to my gate promising myself if I saw her again I would I ask if she was, in fact, “Dorie.”
I’m not proud to admit that when she appeared at my departure gate, I was a complete wimp and did not approach her. She sat two seats behind me on the plane, and still I said nothing. In Chattanooga’s airport she kept popping up, but I continued to come up with excuses for not asking a simple question. Finally, while waiting for my baggage, I heard someone say, “Mrs. Van Stone.”
I turned to her and finally asked, “Are you Dorie Van Stone?” She answered “yes” (of course). “Oh my!” was my intelligent response. I continued with, “I just finished your book on the plane.”
“What did you think?” She asked, smiling.
“It was wonderful!” I managed to gurgle out. “I promised myself that if I ever met you I would give you a big hug!”
Without hesitation, she dropped her bags and gave me the biggest bear hug imaginable. I thanked her for writing the book and we quickly embraced again before going our separate ways.
I was amazed by the marvelous gift God gave me in meeting Dorie Van Stone. My adrenaline high was cut short with the reality that I could have spent a lot more time talking with her, but was too afraid. God was prompting me, but I ignored Him. Instead of listening, I waited until it was safe to ask. To this day, I regret the lost time I could have spent with Dorie.
I committed to never again allow fear to guide my decisions.
Every day, in little ways, God asks us to step out and trust Him. Sometimes He is asking us to share the gospel or help someone in need … and sometimes He is answering a prayer or simply asking us to receive a gift. Isn’t it easy to make excuses or justify saying “no?” We cheat ourselves when we respond this way. He offers us His goodness, shows us His glory, invites to be part of His work, and all we have to do is sensitive to His prompting and say “yes.”
You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to You and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give You thanks forever! — Psalm 30:11-12 NLT
There is a deep joy — the sort of meaningful, overwhelming, heart-swelling sort of joy — that can’t be expressed in words alone. Because I was a dancer and choreographer in my younger days, my eyes light up when I come across a Bible verse that mentions dancing. I understand that impulse to worship with my whole being. During my private devotions, as I ponder the love of Jesus and all He has done for us, I still sometimes raise my arms or spin across the room in an expression of praise.
Whether we use song or dance or whispers from a timid heart, there are many ways to rejoice in the presence of our Savior. But today, I looked at the first part of the verse. David’s psalm is not speaking of a carefree happiness; his praise comes out of heavy mourning. What a strange concept!
It seems that the deepest and most heartfelt joy is born through what we learn from Jesus in times of loss, grief, and pain.
Each year I spend on this earth, my list of loved ones who have gone ahead to Heaven grows longer. Yet daily, Jesus brings joy into the sadness. All that He has done for me means that one day my joy will be complete. Mourning will be over for good. He will ultimately clothe me in joy, and in the meantime, He daily invites me to a dance of celebration — anticipating in faith what is to come.
Faith Step: Lift your arms in praise to Jesus this morning. If you are mourning, meditate on today’s verse and believe that He will transform that pain into joy.
“God is our refuge and strength, a well-proven help in trouble.” – Psalm 46:1 MEV
The psalmist knew what it was like to need help. He had encountered various challenges, opposition, and obstacles. He must have had financial needs and perhaps health or relationship challenges. As a leader of his nation, he also knew that his people confronted many types of adversaries.
This psalm is a testament to ways God had helped him. He had been a “refuge and strength.” This was not just a theory but also a fact. God had been there when he needed Him. And He can help everyone who calls on Him.
He had been in situations where there seemingly was no hope when he had been tempted to worry and be afraid. But the psalmist realized that he always could trust in God. He did not need to panic or give in to fear but could “be still and know that I am God” (v. 10). He could be confident in God.
The psalmist had experienced how God’s help flowed like a mighty river. Trusting Him provided stability and a refuge for His people. Others could see His works for themselves. They could see how He gave strength to those who were weak.
These are truths you can know yourself. No matter what challenges you face, commit them to God. Trust in Him. Don’t give in to worry or fear. Remember that He is with you. Pray. Be still in His presence. Meditate on the truths in His Word.