Thanksgiving time is here. It’s easy to give thanks for the good things, but what about the difficult stuff? We are supposed to maintain thankful attitudes even IN the midst of trials (give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. [1 Thessalonians 5:18]), but what about actually being thankful FOR the trials? Ephesians 5:20 says we are to be “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Betsie and Corrie ten Boom were imprisoned in a concentration camp during World War II because they had hidden Jews in their home. They endured horrible conditions, including flea infestation in their barracks. Betsie said they needed to thank God for everything, even the fleas, but Corrie didn’t understand why. Then one day she realized that because of the fleas, the guards didn’t enter their living quarters very often. This allowed them to openly have Bible studies and share the hope they had found in Jesus. God used horrible conditions for a greater purpose.
It is much easier to wallow in self-pity than it is to thank God for trying circumstances. I decided to think about some difficult times from the past and see if I might be able to thank God for them now.
When our 17-year old daughter was a baby, she cried almost continuously. Other than taking a break for sleeping or eating, Molly pretty much screamed at the top of her lungs all the time. It took nine months to finally discover what was wrong. She had multiple surgeries and was hospitalized on three occasions. Because of the time I spent with Molly at the hospital, I became very comfortable in that setting. I am able to visit people in the hospital today with a peacefulness that was not there prior to the experiences with our daughter. And while watching Molly perform in a musical last weekend, it occurred to me that her incredible lung capacity and amazing ability to project her voice just might be the result of all those months of screaming as an infant.
My husband was laid off nine years ago and we had a very rough year. We spent all of our savings and gave up our plans to move to the mountains. It was surreal to be on the receiving end of bags of groceries instead of on the giving end. While we were grateful to God for providing all we needed during that time, I was not thankful for being in the hard times. But I can look back now and see how the whole experience helped to shape my perspective on what is truly most important in life.
I have struggled with living in Phoenix for the past 12 years. I would prefer living closer to family. I have had to learn to rely on the Lord when I’ve really just wanted my mom or sister to help me with something. I’ve had to pray and watch Him provide the right friend at the right time — and that’s often been Him. I’ve learned the truth of “Come near to God and He will come near to you” (James 4:8a).
I’ve been misunderstood, treated unfairly, and taken for granted more times than I can count. I may not have been thankful during those times, but I am grateful now that every opportunity to extend love, grace, patience, and forgiveness brings a chance to be more like Jesus. He forgives me when I blow it and always provides more character-building opportunities.
What about the times when healing doesn’t happen? When things don’t get better? Perhaps the greater purpose is to remind us that there is life beyond what we see here and now. One day there will be a new heaven and a new earth, when all things are made new, when “the Lamb who is at the center of the throne will shepherd them; He will guide them to springs of living waters, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:17). For that we can be eternally thankful.
• Lisa Jisa and her family have been residents of Ahwatukee Foothills since 2000. Reached her at firstname.lastname@example.org.