In Everything?

Three more days, and Thanksgiving will be here. We’ll watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, eat too much Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends (sweet potatoes, here I come!), and lie around for the rest of the day, too stuffed to move. Somewhere during the day, my husband and I will sit our kids down and have them record what they’re thankful for, as we do every year. Then we’ll pray, and they’ll thank God for things like home and family, friends, their favorite stuffed animals, and our cat.

I’ll tell them that of all the things on earth, I’m most thankful for them and their daddy/my husband. I’ll mention that I appreciate our home, the fact that we have enough food—in fact, more than enough—and all the material blessings God has given us. Those are the things that come immediately to mind when I stop to think about what I’m thankful for.

This year, I’m thankful for other things, too, even though they certainly don’t come to mind first. That’s because these things are all tied to pain in my life, and since I don’t like to dwell on the pain, I don’t usually think about the gratitude I could feel in the midst of those situations, either. But God tells me to be thankful in all circumstances. So this year, I will make it a point to be thankful for the following:

  • the strength God has built into my life by helping me deal with broken and twisted relationships. If it had been up to me, I would have chosen for certain experiences to be much different. But that’s not how life went. I can either focus on the painful parts, or I can choose to be thankful that God has made me stronger by teaching me to thrive despite it all.
  • the friends I’ve made in the course of taking my son to his therapy appointments. Kenny has Asperger’s Disorder, and though he’s doing great, he still has some skills to learn. I would not have chosen Asperger’s for him, but I can choose to be grateful for all the friends we’ve made along the journey.
  • the many times I’ve had to rest during this pregnancy. It would be easy for me to be resentful of or ungrateful for those times and to see them as burdens, not as opportunities. But God has given me the gift of allowing me to stop and rest more than I would have otherwise if I had felt better. Instead of bemoaning the fact that I’m not as high-energy as usual, I choose to appreciate the gift of rest time.

I’m not going to deny any of my painful experiences or pretend that they don’t exist. I don’t suggest you do that either. But I do encourage you to look beyond the things you don’t like to the blessings they have brought about. The circumstance itself may be undesirable and painful, but even in the midst of pain, there is always something good. Don’t let yourself get so focused on the pain that you forget to look for the blessings. They’re in there. Somewhere in the midst of the chaos or hurt, they’re very real and present. So find something to thank God for despite what might be the worst pain of your life. Being thankful isn’t going to make all your pain go away. But that blessing that you haven’t thought about? It’s a diamond in the midst of all the coal. Don’t get so focused on the coal that you forget to look for the diamond. You’ll still be stuck with the coal anyway. But at least you’ll have the diamond too.

1 Thessalonians 5:18—Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

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