Have you ever felt like life has dried up! When giving thanks seemed like an idea so far-fetched? Like everything was hard and lifeless, and you did not even know how to take one more step?
It always seems like God is asking too much of us, especially in times of great disappointments, tremendous losses, or unbearable heartaches. It becomes hard for us to comprehend how we are supposed to give thanks during these difficulties and challenges.
When we talk about a hardship season, we are talking about something negative or bad. In such times, the overriding question is always; how, in the middle of our pain, can we possibly, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus,” as 1 Thessalonians 5:18 encourages us?
A story is told of two ladies riding on a train. One was visibly upset that the other asked, “Are you OK?” She looked at the stranger thinking, “What is it to you?” but felt compelled to answer. She talked about her hatred for her work, her awful boss, the lack of good air circulation, the old computers, lack of privacy, and little pay. After ten minutes of sharing her greatly disadvantaged lifestyle, she paused and said, “What about you?”
The other lady smiled and said, “Oh I’m not as lucky as you. I lost my job six months ago, and I haven’t been able to find one. Then two weeks ago, they found a lump in my breast, and I am on my way for more tests. You are so fortunate to have a job to complain about and to be stressed out about its environment!”
Humanly speaking, like the lady who was upset, you may not see anything you can be grateful for right now. Your circumstances are miserable, and you’re desperately praying they will change. God hears you. In a very real sense, though, you are focusing on the bigness of your circumstances and not on the bigness of God.
It is really interesting that when God frees His people out of slavery in Egypt, He doesn’t bring them right into the Promised Land, He actually takes them into the wilderness and it’s there they wander for 40 years. But is it amazing that the word ‘desert’ is connected to a place where God could actually speak to His people?
And I think for a moment, as followers of Jesus, we try to avoid the desert, we don’t like when our life is hard, barren, and dry. We don’t like to go through seasons when we feel isolated, and so we try to get out of the desert as quick as we can. But instead of asking God WHEN can I get out of the desert, I think we are supposed to ask God, WHAT can I get out of the desert?
When I look at my own life, I realize in hindsight that it was during the hard times in my life and that of my family that God was the closest to me. When my sister got diagnosed with Tuberculosis (TB) in 2014, that was a hard time; I remember so vividly standing in the desert. It didn’t look like what one will see while on the pilgrimage journey in Israel; it looked like a long hospital hallway – that was my desert at that moment. As I look back on that, I know that God was with me. He was closer than He has ever been before; because God meets us in the desert.
I lost my sister, but God spoke!
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What is my point?
During tumultuous times, God asks us to focus on Him and His faithfulness to us rather than on our circumstances; He wants you and me to dwell on His promise to never leave or forsake us and to trust Him to help us in every situation we face in life.
Jesus didn’t just wander into the desert by accident. He went there on purpose; because He wanted to hear from God. Abraham, Moses, and Isaiah went into the desert so that God could speak with them.
Is God speaking to you through your hardship?
You may wonder, how do you begin to give thanks in everything?
It may be a broken washing machine, and you are now recognizing the potential stress and inconvenience associated with unwashed clothes and how the thought of it is affecting the attitude in your family in a negative way. While you may be focusing on what you do not have at the moment and may be considering how it could be fixed or replaced, why not thank God for all the years you have had the machine working?
It is said that a thankful attitude is linked to mental health; it improves sleep, increases energy, brings personal joy, and gives joy to others. Thanksgiving is a choice, an attitude, a way of life.
The Bible encourages us to give thanks in all circumstances. When you offer thanksgiving to God during challenging times, you create an atmosphere for positive influence and creative power. He may allow your situation to continue, but know this: God is in control, not your circumstances.
“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16, 17.
Throughout scripture, God meets people in the desert. That is where His presence is most prevalent. We all face things in our lives that feel like the wilderness, and although we want to avoid the discomfort of the desert, it is an invitation, and God wants to speak to us there.
Jesus himself chose the wilderness because He knew that even while being alone and tempted, there was strength and authority gained by being alone with His father.
No matter how isolated today feels, no matter how lonely you are or what your desert means…God wants to come and be near and speak to you right in the middle of your wilderness.
We should be thankful in every condition, even in adversity as well as prosperity. It is never so bad with us, but it might be worse. So we have all the reason to praise and give thanks. The apostle says, this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning us, that we give thanks, seeing God is reconciled to us in Christ Jesus; in Him, through Him, and for His sake, He allows us to rejoice evermore and appoints us in everything to give thanks.
Have a thankful weekend!