Last updated on November 10, 2023
These things I have spoken to you, that in Me, you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.
Can we give thanks in all things? Many years ago, I would have said no. I would ask, “Why did God allow this to happen?”
I was a victim in many situations, including injustices I didn’t deserve. I would complain, “If God really loved me, He would fix this or solve that.” Or, if I were honest, I would doubt God’s faithfulness. “Will He abandon me, too, like my father and husband?”
A thankless heart grieves the Holy Spirit and hurts our relationship with God. Bitterness, anger, and depression will consume us and leave us hopeless.
Gratitude is a strange gift. The more we’re thankful, the more we remember things for which we’re grateful.
One of my most memorable moments of gratitude came in the eighth grade. I lost my notes for a term paper. I didn’t know the cards were missing until my last class when the bell rang.
I panicked. I ran down the hall into one classroom after another, checking my desk for the missing notes. Each time when they weren’t there, tears welled up. The hours of work I had put into those cards flashed before my eyes, and redoing all that research sickened me. That was when one went to the library to research topics and scoured microfilm and books on shelves.
Inside the last desk I checked, I found my stack of notecards. I wrapped my arms around them and thanked God. Tears flowed—not tears of sadness but tears of joy. I was a straight “A” student, and the thought of those cards being thrown into a trash bin by a janitor was enough to crush me.
Recently, I thought about those three-by-five cards. Much has happened since then. I’m a little grayer, and I imagine a little wiser. I have accumulated many notecards for different term papers.
If we think about it, we’re living notes for God’s Book of Remembrance. God remembers every trial He put us through, and I dare say each one served a purpose for the Kingdom of Heaven. When we triumph, we earn rewards—or lose them if we fail.
If I’m honest, I would gladly have thrown away some of those notecards through the years. They were about topics I never would have chosen, but God had different plans. My notecards have included lessons about disappointment, heartache, failure, worry, depression, fear, and insecurity. Why couldn’t God have given me easier notecards, i.e., how to live like a millionaire? I would have donated lots of money. I could handle that one.
On a more serious note, God’s purpose is not to make our lives easier but to prune us to produce fruits for God’s Kingdom—love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
As the years have passed—and they go by faster the older I get—missing from some of those notecards written long ago is one crucial word—thankfulness. Did I want to thank God for the husband who abandoned me and married his pregnant girlfriend? Did I want to thank God for my barrenness? Did I want to thank God for my twenty years in a profession I hated?
God has taken me down many paths. During most of those years, I did not have a heart of gratitude. I needed to learn something important: Only if I surrendered all my emotional baggage could God use me completely. That included everything I thought served no purpose except to make me miserable.
If we withhold anything from God that needs attention, God can’t use us as He would like. We’re not able to glorify Him fully; instead, we’re busybodies seeking the things of this world and not the things of God.
Look at Hollywood, scan the self-help books on Amazon, listen to the news, and read the newspaper headlines—what blessings can the world give us with its self-centered, I-focused mentality?
I’m thankful God didn’t give me all I wanted when I was young. How could God use you or me with a self-seeking, worldly mindset?
I cringe when I think of what kind of a mother I would have been to my kids if God had blessed me with children when I was married. I was a co-dependent, insecure wife seeking all her self-worth from her husband. Talk about dysfunctional in today’s psychological terms—I was clueless about what it meant to be a Christian, let alone a Christian wife or mother.
Today, I thank God for the divorce that brought me to my knees. Perhaps I loved my husband more than I loved God. I recommitted my life to Jesus Christ, and God became my husband and provider.
Fatherless as a child opened the door for my stepfather to adopt me when I was ten. His adoption paved the way for a deeper understanding of what it means to be adopted by my heavenly Father.
My barrenness became a blessing—I adopted two beautiful daughters from Asia, and God is the only one who loves them more than I do.
I could never see the value of my job as a court reporter. How would God use all those words I wrote involving lawsuits without lasting or eternal value? Only when I prayed to God to make me more thankful for the job I hated did God give me something more fulfilling. Those court-reporting skills gave me the foundation for a later career in broadcast captioning, allowing me to work from home while raising my two daughters.
Why didn’t God allow me to pursue my dreams of becoming an author? Did He not put those dreams in my heart? Now that my children are adults and I have more time, I can pursue my passion for writing.
When I was young, I looked at the destination, not the process, but it is in the process we grow as image-bearers of God. If the process had no meaning, God could have snapped His fingers and made us perfect. Wouldn’t that have been much more efficient and saved time? But God didn’t want to do it that way.
Why? It’s in the process that we glorify God. What is more beautiful than to see a man or a woman who has overcome adversity give praise to Jesus Christ? We’ve all seen it—and we watch in amazement.
How easy it is to forget God’s passion. He sacrificed His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, so why would God withhold anything good from us? There is a mystery in it, but at the center is God. The joy is in the journey and all the opportunities God gives us to glorify Him.
If our attitude toward the hard things glorifies God, we can trust God to help us. As Paul says in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Ultimately, we are most content when we’re filled with the Holy Spirit because our true joy can only be found in Him—not this world. Everything else not of God will fade away.
In the struggle, I see God’s power at work. I am like a worm, but God comes alongside me and lifts me. Often, He sent friends when I needed encouragement. Scripture instructs me daily, and prayer draws me closer to my loving Father.
I hope to redeem those times of hardship by pointing people to the One who is the Source of all Hope and the Giver of all Joy. Perspective is everything. And when I have a moment of doubt, I remind myself God never wastes anything.
Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”
With a grateful heart, I know God is at work even in the hard things, conforming me into His image. Despite what the devil whispers in my ear or yours, the Kingdom of Darkness can’t hide our deeds in the Kingdom of God. The light will shine, and people will see God’s Good Works!
PRAYER: Dear Heavenly Father, help us not to lose heart. Even though our bodies are wasting away, I pray Your Spirit renews us daily. We know our light afflictions are but for a moment, and they are working in us a far more exceeding eternal weight of glory (2 Corinthians 4:16-17).