“No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” (NLT 1 Thess. 5:18) Most Bible verses recording praise and thanksgiving are by people who faced crushing heartaches, injustice, slander and other difficult situations.
The apostle Paul penned these words to baby Christians facing fierce opposition. I wondered how could young believers give thanks feeling pressure, persecution and suffering?
How is it possible to stand in the wake of severe disappointments, struggles, pain and sorrow, and give thanks? We pray, we expect, we hope. When God’s sovereign plan and wisdom turns out different than what we’d like, how can we thank Him?
Pain, Grief, Tears
Scriptures answers this.
Solomon’s great temple, in Jerusalem, was pillaged and destroyed. It lay flattened, ruined and burned. Jeremiah witnessed a hostile army harassing, robbing and killing Jews.
I can hear Jeremiah lamenting, “LORD… how can you let this happen?”
Jeremiah’s heart feels pierced with arrows, he feels trampled upon. His peers mock him; his prosperity and hopes are ruined. (Lamentations 3:13-18)
Jeremiah empties his distress, lets his tears run freely. His emotions become unglued. He survives grief only by expressing it.
Sharing your grief with others and with God must happen before the heavy clouds part, allowing light and truth to caress you. It prepares a pathway for thankfulness.
Recall God’s Character
Something extraordinary happened. When Jeremiah had almost lost hope, he recalls the character of God. (Lam. 3:21) To recall means “to make fresh.”
“Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not, they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23 NKJV).
Mercies can be translated “covenant love” or “steadfast love.” It is linked with compassion (Psalm 103:4), truth and faithfulness (Exodus 34:6), and goodness (Psalm 23:6).
Perhaps Jeremiah recalled God’s character and whispered thanksgiving through gritted teeth. Nevertheless, it changed his perspective. With circumstances unchanged, refreshing thoughts of God’s faithfulness, mercy and compassion becomes Jeremiah’s victory chant. He concluded, “The Lord is my portion.” In other words, I can’t see God’s Hand in this, but His love remains!
In the midst of a family heartache, my friend trusted God’s faithfulness. She voiced thanks, “Our prayers are being answered…just not how we had thought they would be.” (Isaiah 55:8) Heartaches affect all things, but she believes they never change God’s heart.
God’s faithfulness, mercy and compassion permits pain and also His higher purposes…purposes than what we’d like. Should we not thank Him for that? Thanking Him believes in practice that God’s plans for us are “good, pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2)
When you walk into a storm, God is there to meet you. Share with Him your sorrow, your despair. But don’t stop. Recall God’s faithfulness, mercy and compassion. Raise your voice and give Him thanks. Such thanksgiving costs, but He’s worth it.
“Praise [thanksgiving] is the switch that turns on the light in the darkness of your life.” Ann Graham Lotz