Thankful. Sometimes we throw this word around loosely, but when it comes down to it we have to answer this question: What are we really thankful for?
Not what should we be thankful for, what could we be thankful for, or what would we be thankful for if...
What are we thankful for?
The truth is, I have felt guilty this past week for not being as thankful as I “should be.” Life is good but not perfect, and lately the imperfections seem to pile up next to the already existing pile of problems that begins and ends with Covid-19.
So no, I’m not feeling very thankful for the way life has looked lately, but that does not mean that I’m not thankful for something.
When we read scriptures telling us to be thankful (as I often do when I'm feeling less than thankful in the hope I can be more so by sheer willpower), how often have we interpreted that to mean we have to be thankful for all circumstances?
“Do not be anxious about everything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” - Philippians 4:6
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” -1 Thessalonians 5:18
Now, what do these verses say about being thankful? They say in all circumstances, not for all circumstances.
I hesitate to even say these words, because I don’t want it to seem like I’m doubting God’s promise to work all things for good (Romans 8:28). The promise of His working for good is sure and we can rely on it, but even there it does not say all things are good. Paul says God works all things for good, not that they necessarily start out that way.
Maybe right now you’re waiting for something, longing for breakthrough, grieving a loss, or holding a hurt. Whatever they may be, if your circumstances are hard to be thankful for, may I give you permission to not be thankful for them today?
Again, I believe the Lord will work all things for good, and we will one day be thankful for how He worked in the hardships, but we do not have to be thankful for the hardships as they are today.
Even so, we can be thankful in these places.
Here are a few things I'm thankful for this week. Maybe you're thankful for them too.
I am thankful for grace, both saving and sustaining.
I am thankful for hope, for the promise of what is to come.
I am thankful for Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith.
I am thankful for my Father, who loves faithfully and completely.
I am thankful for the Holy Spirit dwelling within me, who leads my heart and my hands nearer to the place where I lift my heart in surrender and hand over the burdens I sometimes (all the time) hold too tightly.
The important thing here is that these are not dependent on circumstance. Regardless of what is happening, these points of gratitude remain steady because they are rooted in the One who is immovable.
In every place, in every season, in every moment, we have God. And when we have God, we have gratitude.
We don’t have to toss out a sentiment of gratitude about our situation when it leaves a bitter taste in our mouths. We don’t have to say the word "thankful" because that’s what we're expected to do. We don’t have to bind ourselves to a life of outward platitudes and inward pleading all in an effort to keep up appearances.
Instead, we can bind ourselves to God and let Him hear our honest thoughts. We can share with Him how we really feel, not the words we think He wants to hear. If we're not grateful for something happening, we can tell Him that. But we cannot stop here.
After revealing our honest thoughts and emotions, we can recall His love for us that stands strong even when we pour out the ungrateful pieces of our hearts.
In this place where our hearts are laid bare before the Lord, the recollection of His steadfast love sings all the sweeter in our hearts. It's here that we experience honest gratitude for such a love as His. It's here that we find we can still repeat the words of Psalm 107 even in our less than stellar situations: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”
He is good. His love endures forever. Thank you, Lord.
We don’t have to be thankful for everything all the time, but all the time we can be thankful for something.
So find your something.
Mine is the Lord.
In all circumstances, mine is the Lord.