When Giving Thanks Hurts (Part One)

There are seasons when life is good. And then there are seasons when life is hard. When life is so painful that you can hardly breathe. When you have cried so many tears that you feel like you are drowning in them. When you wake up and don’t even want to get out of bed. Maybe you are in a season like that right now.

  • Maybe your marriage is falling apart.
  • Maybe you found out your child did something terrible.
  • Maybe the finances are tight and then your vehicle breaks down.
  • Maybe you lost your job right before the holidays and don’t know how you will pay for gifts.
  • Maybe you lost a loved one last year and this is going to be the first Thanksgiving without them.
  • Maybe you got the test results from the doctor and it isn’t good.
  • Maybe you went to that prenatal exam and they couldn’t find a heartbeat. (Click here for my story.)

If you are in a season like that, my heart goes out to you. I have been there. I have sobbed into my pillow screaming “JESUS” over and over again, because I had no other words to say. All I felt I could do in the moment was cry from the bottom of my heart to the only One who could rescue me. In those heart-wrenching moments all I could see was my pain. Giving thanks for anything was far from my mind.

But in the New Testament Paul exhorts us to “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” -1 Thessalonians 5:18

I have to admit that I have really struggled with this verse. How can I be thankful in ALL circumstances? How can I be thankful when I am in so much pain? And yet, the verse says that it is God’s will for us. If it is God’s will for me to be thankful in all circumstances, then God must know how I can accomplish such an insurmountable task.

But as I study this passage I see that He says to be thankful IN all circumstances. He doesn’t say to be thankful FOR all circumstances.

I may not be thankful for everything in my life, but I can be thankful that the One who is greater than my circumstances, is right by my side through it all.

And I think God knows that we can’t do it on our own, that is why He speaks through Paul when he also tells us in Philippians 4:13 that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

The book of Philippians was written by Paul when he was in prison. If you read the verses before he is talking about how he had learned to be content in all circumstances. I don’t know about you, but I would find it hard to be content in prison. But Paul was. In fact, Philippians has been called the book of joy because of how many times Paul references joy and rejoicing in it. Can you imagine writing a book on joy while in prison? I can’t.

It is also interesting to note that Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians first. Scholars say that Paul probably wrote 1 Thessalonians in 51 AD and Philipians in 62 AD. So, God had Paul write to “be thankful in all circumstances”, knowing full well that Paul would end up in prison. He also knew that Paul would discover there that he could be content in all things because of his relationship with Christ. He could be joyful even in prison, knowing that God would work all things out for his good. (Romans 8:28)

If God did that for Paul, then He can do that for us. He can ask us to give thanks in all circumstances, because He knows that He is with us in all circumstances. He knows He can work good out of every moment of our lives, if we will let Him.

He is not done writing our story. And He knows how our story will turn out. We just have to choose to trust Him and give thanks to Him. Even during the chapters that are filled with heartache and pain.

I heard this analogy the other day and I really like it.

Faith is like having an umbrella in life. It is still going to rain, but faith keeps you from being totally soaked by it all.

I can be thankful that even on life’s rainy days, God has given me an umbrella. I can be thankful that in Jesus, I have a safe place to weather the storm. I can be thankful through my tears because I know that He understands what I am going through. I can be thankful because even though the night has closed in on me, I am clinging to His promise that there will be a dawn.

When life is at its worst, God is right there with me. And because of that I can give thanks, even when it hurts.

The upcoming holiday season can be hard on a lot of people for many different reasons. Let’s go out of our way to be kind and loving to others around us. You never know who is having a rough day and just pasting a smile on their face. They may be carrying their burden well, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t heavy.

If you are going through a hard season right now and would like prayer please either comment below or send an email to restandchaos@gmail.com. All prayer requests are kept confidential.

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23 thoughts on “When Giving Thanks Hurts (Part One)

  1. Where would I be without my faith? I thank God for an attitude of gratitude and the peace of God that passeth all understanding. I agree that we must give thanks IN everything!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you for the beautiful words. We all need a reminder. It is difficult at times to find the good in a situation but it’s important to not lose sight of our many blessings.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. To God be the glory. This was a great post. I love your vulnerability and transparency showing how we don’t always show gratefulness in situations but God always works it out. Although we don’t see it while we are going through, He never leaves us. That’s enough to be thankful for!!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Beautiful words of encouragement! Thank you Collene for sharing and allowing the Holy Spirit to guide your writing. I appreciated the link to reading your previous Alone & Hurting article too. Thank you for your vulnerability and I’m so proud you chose to go to church and allow yourself to be surrounded by church family. We have to stick together and it is a great reminder that doing real life together means we go through the good, bad, and everything in between.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your sweet words and encouragement. I am so glad that God used my words to speak to you. Doing life together as a church is so important. We really do need each other. To celebrate the good times and help each other carry our burdens. Thank you for taking the time to coment!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post! We must trust in God at all times. Sometimes, in the rough spots, we learn the most. And although we cannot be ‘happy’ all the time, we always have joy in Christ. Joy is a very different thing from happiness. Joy in Christ does not depend on the situation we find ourselves in. Joy is an eternal thing when we think of our relationship with God. Like love itself, joy in Christ is not only for the hope of our days on this earth…it is forever and ever.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Wonderfully said, Thank you! I also think it great that you are offering to pray with/for folks. I hope many avail themselves to being blessed by your heart.
    I thank God for the season of life I find myself in, as His presence has been made wonderfully known to us. Giving thanks is quite easy right now. But I have also been in the darker times like you have so accurately described. I know now, looking back, that only God could and did see me through.
    I just finished a wonderful book written by Anne Graham Lotz titled The Daniel Prayer. It is a great study of Daniel Chapter 9. See has written something that resonates with my soul and I share with you and your readers that it might do the same: We must learn to not view our life through the lens of our circumstances but rather to view our circumstances through the lens of God’s sovereignty (my paraphrase). I have found as I ponder this that I am able to give Him thanks in any and all situations (Philippians 4:12)
    Blessings to you,
    Pastor Chuck

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and the quote from that book! I want to check that book out now. I hope many read your comment and are blessed by it. Learning to see through God’s lens of sovereignty definitely helps put things in perspective. It is a learning process to trust Him when life is hard.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I was too surprised how someone can can find joy while in prison, but when we make gratitude a daily prayer we can feel it and notice the change it brings. And the phrase,
    “He knows He can work good out of every moment of our lives, if we will let Him,” makes everything easy. I live by this and magic happens all the time. Great inspiring post! Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I absolutely LOVE this blog post! It’s been a rough week, and I needed the reminder! You have encouraged, inspired and comforted me with these words – and I know that although they’re from your beautiful heart, all credit is due to the Father. But thank you for being His vessel and speaking to ME! May you have a wonderfully blessed weekend – blessed with all the things that count!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. All glory to God. I am so happy that this post encouraged you! That was my prayer for these words. That they would go to those who need them most. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      Like

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