This is the time of year when kids come home with thankfulness crafts from school, when the internet has no lack of articles about gratitude, and when families pause briefly at the dinner table to share what they are most thankful for.
My youngest son proudly held up his project from his Sunday school class, listing three things he is thankful for. “My parents, my baby sister, my family” Certainly, I echo his sentiments, and I’m sure I can easily add to his list even during difficult seasons in life when cultivating thankfulness takes a great deal more effort. But what about the difficult seasons themselves? What about the hardship that doesn’t seem to go away? Or the trial that seems to press down hard on me?
Instead of merely being thankful despite our trials, can we also be thankful for our trials?
Difficulties on any given day range from a mild irritation to something that sends me to my pillow weeping. But whether small or large, I find that thankfulness for that one thing that seems to keep life from being easier raises me to a better vantage point, allowing me to discern things I, otherwise, would easily miss.
There is a purpose.
Hard times are not a one-size-fits-all. Financial problems, sickness, abandonment, terminal illness, parenting challenges, broken relationships, unforgiveness … and all to differing degrees. But I believe there is a purpose to our trials. God has a purpose for them. He did not dispense them arbitrarily, like hands dealt from a deck of cards. Some people spend their entire lives, raising their fists at God, cursing Him for their lot in life. But the humble heart, who submits to God, will begin to see the unraveling of His purposes for those trials.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)
Life is more than me.
When I get fixated on how much I’m suffering, naturally, I spend less and less time noticing that others are hurting too, perhaps even more than I am. Must we be out of the pit first in order to help someone? I say no. Turn around, and you will find that a desperate soul is in the mire with you. Let her climb on your shoulder to boost her up. Hold fast to her arm so you don’t slip during the climb. Cheer each other on. Then be thankful, for you likely would not have found each other if you had not stopped for a second and looked around.
God’s ways are higher than mine.
It is not my tendency to request or conceive of enduring hardship. My petitions to God tend to be a reflection of an innate desire for an easier, happier life. Often, my prayers are of the “remove this thorn from me” variety (2 Corinthians 12:7-8). However, had God freed me from the burden of my trials when I asked, I would not have known
that He gives strength to endure,
that He is faithful to answer prayers,
and that His grace …
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
(2 Corinthians 12:9)