I knew it was coming.
The truth is, in that moment, I didn’t want to give thanks.
She had asked this question nearly every time I called to report the latest Smith family bomb and one would think that by now I would have been ready with the “right” answer. Alas, I am but a forgetful sheep. After she listened to me, cried with me and reminded me that she loved me she asked… “Have you given thanks?”
There it was.
And just like I did most every time she had asked it before, I rolled my eyes. I’m not proud of it… but I do like to keep it real here folks. The truth is, in that moment, I didn’t want to give thanks. I wanted to rant and complain, and basically invite her into the pity party I was throwing for myself. I wanted to sit for awhile in my entitlement, and there was no room in my chair for giving thanks.
She knows me well.
She knows my tendency to process out loud, often before I have processed with the Lord. She knows that deep down I long to connect to the heart of Jesus more than I want to party with self-pity. This woman who has discipled me for the last 16 years knows my heart – the good, the bad and the ugly; yet she loves me still. Even as I write those words, I am taking a moment to savor the gift. She has instilled in me a love for the word of God while teaching me how to have a real relationship with the living Savior. And she continues to be an echo of the Father’s validating voice in my life.
Her words carry great weight.
“Have you given thanks?”
Her question originates from 1 Thes. 5:18: “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you” (NASB). Though I am no Greek scholar, I believe that the use of “in” is significant. It doesn’t say give thanks for all things, but give thanks in all things. While you are in it (whatever circumstance it might be), walking through it…give thanks. Why? Well, it is God’s will for you to be thankful in all things! We can look to Psalm 100:4, where we are called to enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. And no matter the circumstance, wouldn’t you rather experience it in the presence of God? Oh how different my world looks when viewed through the lens of I AM.
So once I get over myself, I take a minute to consider… “How in this situation can I give thanks?” While I may not be able to give thanks for the circumstance itself, there is always something I can give thanks for in it’s midst. When my daughter got pregnant out of wedlock, I could not, with true integrity, be thankful for that situation. I had a lot of grieving to do, in fact. I realized, though, that even in the middle of my grief, there were many things for which I could give thanks.
- Thank you God that she chose life.
- Thank you God that you are the creator of life, and therefore have a purpose for this one.
- Thank you God that you promise to be with us and never leave us.
- Thank you God that you knew every one of her days before one of them came to be.
- Thank you God that you are in control and you have a plan.
- Thank you God that you are faithful and your promises are true.
- Thank you God that you are the same God that created the universe and parted the Red Sea. Thank you God that nothing is impossible for you.
- Thank you God that no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has conceived the plans you have for those that love you.
Deep breath in. Deep breath out.
Giving thanks settles my heart, reminds me who God is, and opens me up to what God might actually be up to. Because God is up to something. He is always up to something…and most of the time, He’s up to many things! This grief will not be for nothing. This pain will not be wasted pain. Pausing, taking a moment to give thanks puts me in the position to ask, “God, what are you up to?” from a place of genuine curiosity, humility and surrender, as opposed to “God, what are you doing?” a question that, in me, comes from a place of pride and judgment. It gives me ears to hear when God answers.
I am reminded of the Don Moen song from years ago entitled “Give Thanks.”
Give thanks with a grateful heart
Give thanks to the Holy One
Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son
And now let the weak say, “I am strong”
Let the poor say, “I am rich
Because of what the Lord has done for us”
I often like to take songs God brings to mind and let them remind me of the truths of Scripture.
Give thanks with a grateful heart – “let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings…” (Heb. 10:22)
Give thanks to the Holy One – “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Prov. 9:10)
Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son – “He that did not hesitate to spare his own Son but gave him up for us all—can we not trust such a God to give us, with him, everything else that we can need?” (Rom. 8:32)
And now let the weak say, “I am strong” – I am weak, but “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:13)
Let the poor say, “I am rich because of what the Lord has done for us”– I am poor of spirit, but “the Lord richly blesses all who call on him.” (Rom. 10:12)
Give thanks – “Give thanks in all things, for this is God’s will for you.” (1 Thes. 5:18)
One Step Further:
- Are you stuck? Does it feel as though the lies are louder than truth? What are you in right now?
- Have you given thanks?