Monday, November 9, 2009

Give Thanks for That?

Give Thanks for That? ©
by Debbie Guinn
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you .
~1 Thessalonians. 5:18 (KJV)
Every year around Thanksgiving, I find myself sitting with a group of friends or family answering the question “What are you thankful for this year?” As we go around the table or room, eyes well up with tears as loved ones thank God for family, health, wealth, friends, or other blessings the Lord has given throughout the year. There is something about that time of reflection and joint thanksgiving that causes us to recall just how good our Father is toward us, His children.
I wonder, though, how our Father feels when we fail to thank Him for the tough times…the seemingly bad things that happen in our lives. Oh, we may thank Him for bringing us through those times. How often, though, do we thank Him for those times, especially when we are still in the midst of them?
Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 that we are to give thanks in everything. He doesn't say to give thanks for the good things or when you see the bad things work out for good. This verse does not give us the option to decide those things for which we want to be thankful. In Ephesians 5:20 Paul says we should be “ always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ .” (NIV) Not only are we to give thanks for everything but we are to be doing it at all times…not just when we feel like it.
A common therapy for individuals suffering from depression is to make a daily list of ten (or more) things for which they are thankful. Research has shown that finding things for which one is thankful can heal their depression. Actually, Solomon told us that several thousand years ago in Proverbs 17:22 where he said, “ A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones .” A thankful list might consist of things such as air, water, food, clothing, shelter, ability to walk, ability to breathe, ability to eat, ability to move an arm or leg. They might include children, spouse, and friends. Suffering from severe depression at times in my life, I know how hard it can be to come up with even one thing at times. As the depressed person progresses, they begin to find more and more things for which they are thankful.
I wonder what would happen if we were to make a daily list of ten things for which we are thankful, including five good things and five of the seemingly bad things in our life…the areas where we don't feel like giving thanks but choose to anyway. My list from yesterday would look like this:
Thank you, Father, for loving me.
Thank you, Father, for giving me friends who love and pray for me.
Thank you, Father, for my beautiful daughters.
Thank you, Father, for helping me accomplish some things today that I needed to do.
Thank you, Father, for your peace and comfort
Thank you, Father, for the side effects of the medication that are still wreaking havoc on me.
Thank you, Father, for the lack of sleep the last two nights.
Thank you, Father, for my dear friend's death last night.
Thank you, Father, for not allowing me to see my friend again before she died.
Thank you, Father, that I still cannot think clearly enough to get my article written.
Now that I have written that list, I must ask myself “Am I truly thankful for everything on that list?” Oh, I know I am thankful for the first five. What about the last five? Yesterday proved to be a tough day for me. I have been going through residual side effects from some medication that caused me to go into a deep depression, combined with high levels of anxiety and irritability. This has been unlike any depression I have had before in that there were no issues I could deal with to resolve my depression. Even after speaking with my counselor, it was clear that I simply had to wait it out, while the medication worked its way out of my system. On top of that, I found out yesterday morning that a very dear friend of mine, who has battled brain cancer for six and a half years, went to be with her precious Jesus the night before.
God had put this article on my heart earlier in the week, before the effects of the medication took over. As I struggled yesterday, I thought of the article frequently…partly because of the pressure to get it written but also because the Lord was speaking the very topic to my heart. His quiet whisper to me throughout the day was “Are you going to thank me for everything I have allowed in your life today?”
How do I—how do we—get to the place where we can thank God for the tough stuff in life? How do we thank God for sickness and disease? How do we thank God for taking a precious loved one from us? How do we thank God for lost jobs and financial ruin? How do we thank God for wayward children?
I believe it comes from understanding just how much our Father loves us. We must go back to the basics of realizing that He loved us so much that even when we were filthy, wretched sinners He sent His only Son to die for us. (Romans 5:8, John 3:16) A God who loves you and me that much is not going to allow anything in our lives that isn't ultimately for our good. It may not seem good at the time and often times won't feel good. That is where trust comes into play. We have to trust God's love for us, rather than our feelings.
Jesus says in Matthew 10:28 “ Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will .” He goes on inverse 31 to say, “… you are of more value than many sparrows .” God loves you; He cares deeply about you…about me. Everything He allows in our lives comes out of His heart of love. I don't understand that all the time. I just know that He loves me…and He loves you too.
We are told in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 to give thanks in everything because this is the will of God in Christ Jesus . God desires for us to thank Him for everything because He knows this is where we will find peace and contentment. Philippians 4:6 says, “ Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God .” (NKJV) Paul says, rather than being anxious, submit your request to God through prayer and supplication with thanksgiving. I don't think Paul meant for us to thank God for blessings and then petition God for other areas that are weighing us down, causing us to feel anxious. I believe he is saying to be thankful for those same areas that we are presenting to God…the same ones that are causing us anxiety.
It is God's will that we give thanks in everything, because He loves us and always has our best at heart. He knows that when we give thanks for the struggles we face, we will have peace and be free from all anxiety. As we learn to give thanks in everything—the good, bad and totally incomprehensible—we will be able to consider it all joy when we encounter various trials. ( James 1:2)
In what areas do you find it hard to give thanks? I challenge you to choose at least one of those areas and begin thanking God for allowing that circumstance, person, or situation in your life. Make this Thanksgiving the year that you learn what it means to give thanks in everything.

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