It is easy to be thankful for friends and family when all is going well. But being thankful during hard times, grief, and loss can seem impossible. With faith in God and an eye searching for blessings, you can be thankful in tough times.
I wonder how many people fake thankfulness in order to avoid making the holidays more grueling than necessary. Isn’t the pain of a difficult situation or the heartache of a broken relationship easy to hide with a smile or a hug?
I wish it wasn’t so.
This year brought intense hurt to several of my loved ones. I feel the heaviness of their hearts and wish I could take away the lies, deceit, and loss they try to cope with and understand.
But I can’t.
And they can’t escape their burdens by pretending.
Will you fake it through the holidays this year while your heart secretly breaks inside of you?
If yes, my hope is to convince you to do otherwise. I want you to experience thankfulness in hard times and secure hope and healing this holiday season.
Thankful In Hard Times: Difficult Situations
We all feel the pangs of difficult situations during our existence. Perhaps a loved one’s death plagues you or a lost relationship weighs you down. Maybe you’re afflicted by divorce, a wayward child, or prolonged illness.
Tough times come for us all, regardless of who we are, where we live, or the time of year.
Suffering through a less than desirable situation can debilitate us, can’t it? No thanksgiving in that. But how about if your difficult situation moves you from a bad place to a great place? Could you be thankful for that?
Thankful in Hard Times: Demotions and Setbacks
Thankfulness booms during prosperity and achievement. At a peak in our life, we feel like nothing will stop us.
Then we fall.
We lose a job or our business tanks. Our successes slow and our recognition diminishes into memories. Sometimes we’re forced to leave something in which we excel or live with a little less because of unexpected hardship.
When we’re living on top of the world, it’s hard not to expect to remain there. Unfortunately, triumph seldom stays for long.
Finding opportunities to give thanks while dealing with a demotion or set back might seem impossible to you, but what if you are thinking about where you want to be rather than where you need to go? Can you see the possibility for thanks in that?
Thankful In Hard Times: Losing Battles
Survival of the fittest happens around us everyday. Personal attacks occur over Facebook, aggression rules the road, and ruthless disagreements over political and religious issues permeate our homes, friendships, and nation.
Selfish endeavors to win at any cost pick away at our humanity.
I’m not sure when winning became so important.
I get it. We grapple for truth with people who lie about us. We fight for justice against those that treat us unfairly. When someone wrongs us, we wrestle them to make it right again.
Ever feel like you’re fighting a losing battle?
It’s possible you aren’t meant to win the fight and that you shouldn’t have started it in the first place. What if the purpose of the fight helps you to identify what is worth fighting for and from that you give thanks?
Thankful In Hard Times Truths
The trials of life totally stink, and as such, I’m not telling you to say thank you for these challenges. That’s plain silly. However, by placing your trust in God, you will find thankfulness in hard times.
Struggles make me think of the childhood song We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. The lyrics “We can’t go over it, we can’t go under it, we’ve got to go through it” ring true here. We must endure difficulties.
But why not lean on the blessings that take place as we go through a hard time?
I’ve quotes this verse before and I will quote it again because it offers much hope:
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, KJ V).
So what good comes from hard times?
THANKSGIVING TRUTH 1: DIFFICULT SITUATIONS PREPARE US TO MOVE SOMEWHERE NEW.
It doesn’t happen fast, but difficult situations eventually lead to better situations. The unfamiliar can bring fear though and to that I say:
With God as our protector, we do not need to fear the unknown. Instead we can thank Him for leading us through the exits and entrances of life.Click To Tweet
“The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even evermore” (Psalms 121:8, KJV).
This doesn’t mean to embrace pain and strife. I didn’t welcome the uncertainty that came with the abrupt ending of my job and the forfeit of an income.
Yet, I trusted God to work it out and thanked him for the new purpose he extended to me via the loss of a job. Over a year and a half later, the blessings of the Lord abound in my family. A difficult situation transpired into something better.
Phillip, a Jewish man discussed in the New Testament, found the blessings of a difficult situation too. In Acts 8, Philip’s unwavering faith and commitment to Jesus puts him in danger of persecution. He is forced to leave his home and family and enter Samaria, a region rich in resentment towards the Jewish population. Talk about a hard time. Philip is fleeing to avoid death and must enter a place where he’s hated.
The end isn’t what you’d expect. Jesus uses Philip to spread the Gospel to people who wouldn’t have heard it without him. Philip’s ministry grows and so does his relationship with God.
THANKSGIVING TRUTH 2: A DEMOTION OR SETBACK OPENS UP OUR EYES TO SEE GOD’S PLAN.
Tunnel vision happens to the best of us. Ever lost your keys only to find them in the coat you’ve checked three times (that elf on the shelf is up to his tricks again!). Or have you proofread a work email and still let a spelling mistake slip through?
Why do these things happen? I imagine familiarity has to do with it. We get comfortable with our surroundings and only see what we want to see rather than the alternatives.
The fear created by a demotion or setback hinders possibility even to the most resolute. It hampers our ability to consider that where we’re going might be superior to where we’ve been.
The loss of my job placed me in the role of stay-at-home mom. After working in a high-paced environment for 15 years, my new position felt like a setback. Now it feels like progress. My relationship with friends, family, and God continue to improve and I’m finally pursuing my dream of writing. God helped me to see a different plan—His plan.
Let’s talk about Philip again. He experienced a demotion (further in Acts 8) when God pushed him out of his successful ministry in Samaria into the foreign deserts of Ethiopia. But God had a plan for Him—to spread the Gospel to a country untouched by Jesus’ followers. The road God placed Philip on superseded the road he left behind.
THANKSGIVING TRUTH 3: LOSING BATTLES HUMBLE US INTO RELIANCE ON GOD.
Did you know we don’t have to fight our battles alone? God fights with us and for us should we ask Him.
“Ye shall not fear them: for the Lord your God he shall fight for you” (Deuteronomy 4:22, KJ V).
And yet, we enter quarrels solo upon feeling unheard, powerless, misjudged, or mistreated. Our emotions take control and tell us we must fight on our own.
Nothing is further from the truth. Without God, we partake in futile wars, which end in defeat. Luckily defeat teaches.
This year I am most thankful about losing the battle against my son. Talk about fighting the wrong war! For years I struggled to make my son obey and behave how I thought he should. The weariness of it all left me exhausted and pushed my son further away from my desired result.
In my defeat, I realized the war with my son should instead be an attack on my selfishness. I didn’t pray for my son’s obedience so he’d get closer to God, I craved obedience so I looked good as a mom! From my losing battle I humbled myself before God and his sufficiency and allowed him to transform my heart.
One of the most upside down battles in the Bible is Saul’s war against followers of Jesus. In Acts 9, Saul travels to kill Christians in his self-created crusade, unaware he’ll lose the fight when God strips him of his sight. Jesus claims victory and Saul discovers his need to rely on the almighty power of God. The rest is history. God transforms him from a killer to one of the greatest missionaries of all time. (And, oh yeah, he wrote 13 books in the Bible.)Whatever hard times trouble you this holiday, remember this: Our God has an infinite knowledge of the past, present, and future. You can trust that His plan will far exceed any plans you have for yourself.Click To Tweet
For that we all can give thanks.
What hard time are you trying to face without God and what Thanksgiving Truth might help you find thankfulness?