Thanksgiving Matters — Especially When It’s Hard

Billie Jo YoumansBy Billie Jo Youmans8 Minutes

Eighty percent of Americans say Thanksgiving is their favorite holiday. Most everyone would agree that being thankful makes the world a better place. People with an attitude of gratitude:

  • treat others better,
  • have healthier relationships,
  • like themselves better,
  • sleep sounder,
  • have fewer physical aches and pains, and
  • suffer less from PTSD.

But let’s be honest – thankfulness isn’t always easy. Giving thanks isn’t high on my to-do list when hard stuff rocks my world. But it should be.

When Giving Thanks Feels Impossible

You’ve surely heard the phrase, “This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and give thanks in it.” You may know it comes from Psalm 118, but did you know some scholars believe this was the song Jesus and the disciples sang on the night before His crucifixion?

That sure changes the import of those words, doesn’t it? And it makes sense. Hebrews 12:2 says Jesus faced the suffering of the Cross with JOY! Jesus said His suffering was necessary, binding, and the thing he ought to do (Matthew 16:21).  F.B. Meyer (1847-1929) explains it this way:

There was a great price to be paid; it was only through suffering and death that Jesus could do His greatest work, in redeeming and cleansing the children of men. He might have been the miracle worker apart from Calvary; but to be the Savior, He must not spare Himself but be willing to pour out His soul even unto death.

Whenever I am confronted with challenges that tempt me to complain instead of rejoice, I must look to Jesus and remember: eternally great works are underway. Choosing thankfulness clears the way into His presence where strength, hope, and even joy await.

Making More Room for Christ

Although the life of Christ is fully formed at salvation, the Lord doesn’t do a forced take-over of our soul. He asks us to “make room” for Him, which leads us to this: pain has purpose – or God would never have allowed it.  Failing to give thanks wastes pain’s potential! But offering a sacrifice of praise ushers you into God’s presence, brings you healing, and enlarges your capacity for His Spirit.

When hurts happen, and our hearts break, we cry out to God. He lovingly mends our brokenness with Himself. Our hearts become more like His, and His Spirit has more room to work in and through us. Prying ourselves off the throne of our lives and putting God in His rightful place isn’t easy! Dying to self HURTS, and we must not deny it. Beware of employing words as a panacea – learn to apply truths to your pain and help others do the same. We can’t just mouth truth, we must weave it into our souls. “God is good” and “Jesus is enough” are truths to live.

This life is all about soul business – our transformation to Christlikeness. Scripture is clear – Jesus suffered on purpose – in the will of God (Isaiah 53:10, Hebrews 5:8). Paul said sharing in Christ’s sufferings is cause for rejoicing (Philippians 3:10). The divine, sovereign plan of God ordains that pain has a significant role in our transformation.

Resist the Urge to Run

Reframing trials from a source of grief and loss to a transformation tool doesn’t make the pain go away, but it does give hope. And biblical hope never disappoints (Romans 5:5). Courage and strength come with trust in the sovereign love of God. Healing happens when God’s power and love are recognized as the filter for our lives – and we give thanks.

Our natural desire is to run toward things we think are good – and flee what feels unpleasant. But the world is full of deceptions that look good and promise immediate gratification. The Spirit beckons us to trust God above all else!

It is the enemy of our soul – the Father of Lies – who encourages us to run from earthly suffering. Heeding the enemy’s call to run from pain, plunges us toward death and causes us to exchange eternal treasure for temporary trinkets (Mark 8:36). To silence him, we must fix our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2) and echo His words:

Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s (Matthew 16:23 NLT).

Pain reveals the deceptions we’ve believed and the parts of our soul we’ve not yet allowed Christ to enter. Wisdom gives thanks in the hard times because the outcome is eternally good!

Embrace the Eternal

Our hurts are like emotional “nerves” that serve our souls in the same way the autonomic nervous system protects our bodies. When our body’s nervous system breaks down, injuries and infections threaten our life. Unhealed heart hurts are more dangerous – they compromise our eternal souls.

Learning to give thanks because we trust in God’s goodness and power provides us with robust spiritual health. We recognize the pain as divine intervention. We’re willing to allow the Master Physician, our loving Creator, to separate our hearts from earthly treasures that block His presence – and rob us of REAL life!

Bring Heaven to Earth

Offering a sacrifice of praise in the midst of pain is an intentional, conscious choice that glorifies God and transforms trials into triumphs. Gratitude for God’s power and love lifts you above every circumstance, bringing heaven to earth.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name (Psalm 100:4 NLT).

Dwelling in the presence of God produces a wholeness in our minds, bodies, and relationships and unites us to His goodness.  Praising God (especially in the dark times) reveals His glory to others – and beckons them to enter eternal life, too.

The ticket for it all is THANKSGIVING!

If you are hurting today, we would be honored to pray with you. Click here and let’s give glory to God together.