How You Can Be Grateful in Tough Times
How You Can Be Grateful in Tough Times
Sure, it’s easy to be grateful when life’s all sunshine and rainbows, but how often is that real? Not very often, right?
So how can you and I remain grateful when life is challenging or even downright hard?
GRATEFUL IN TOUGH TIMES, NOT FOR TOUGH TIMES
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” - 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Have you heard this verse thrown out there when people are complaining about legitimate trials and struggles, as if they have no right to feel their pain?
There is an abundance of cliche phrases out there that we all hear when people are trying to encourage us, things like, “There’s always something to be grateful for!” and, “Just look for the silver lining!” and, “Things always happen for a reason.”
Now, I believe these things are mostly true. But they’re not always the most helpful. And I certainly never want to tell people they can’t feel their pain or be upset about the struggles they’re going through. I never want people to think they have to be grateful for their pain simply because God can redeem it— that’s true, but it doesn’t take the sting away.
Instead of giving thanks for our tough times, I believe we can give thanks in the tough times. The verse says “give thanks in all circumstances,” not give thanks for all circumstances. The difference can be illustrated with this example:
I’m thankful for that long season of financial difficulty.
I’m thankful that in my long season of financial difficulty, I had friends who encouraged me.
We don’t have to understand why things happen or have the presence of mind and positivity to be thankful for the tough things, but we can choose to see the good things that exist in the midst of them.
I had an extremely difficult season right after I graduated college. I had been fighting and trying my darnedest to secure a job before graduation, but it didn’t happen. I worked as a temp at my mom’s office for the summer, but I was stressed out beyond belief. I was struggling and stressing and obsessing. I thought I was trusting God to provide, but I was holding onto my vision, my plan, with a white-knuckled grip. And all that left me with was frustration and angst.
It wasn’t until I finally let go of my plan and rested that I realized there was more to the story than what I’d been able to see. God was making me trust Him and His timing. He was giving me rest. He even gave me a wonderful opportunity to use my extra time to help start the church that I’ve now been a part of for over five years. None of those things would have been the same without that season of struggle. I’m not grateful for the pain or anger, but I am grateful for the fruit that was borne in that season.
FOCUS ON THE GOOD
There is always something good, even in the middle of tough situations and seasons.
Sometimes we can’t see it ourselves, but others can lovingly point it out.
I went through a difficult season in my business and was stressed and frustrated about a whole bunch of things when a friend kindly pointed out all the ways I’d grown through that experience— I had to learn to be bolder, to take risks, to lead more confidently, and to trust God more fully. No, the process wasn’t smooth or particularly pretty or impressive, but I wouldn’t have gained those things without going through that experience.
Even in difficult work seasons or health seasons, I’ve had supportive family and friends to continually encourage me.
When I got knocked down twice by a nasty virus this summer, I was grateful that I had a flexible schedule that allowed me to take the break and rest I needed.
REMEMBER GOD IS STILL GOOD
No matter what else happens, God is still good. We don’t know what He’s up to all the time, but we can be reassured knowing it’s greater than we could ever imagine! And there are just some things we’ll never understand, and embracing that truth removes some of the stress and frustration we can feel when we’re trying to wrap our heads around everything that’s happening and feeling the need to provide the answers.
God has carried you and me this far, and He will be faithful to carry us to the end. When it’s hard to believe that in the present, we can remember how He has been faithful in our lives in the past, along with examples of how we’ve seen Him move and work in the lives of those around us.
TRUSTING IN WHAT YOU CAN’T SEE
If we focus our eyes on our problems and troubles, that’s all we’re going to see.
But if we look beyond ourselves and see there’s more than just what’s right in front of us, we’ll gain valuable perspective. There are things coming, things moving, things happening right now that we just can’t yet see. And maybe that’s a good thing. Because if we could see them, we might be lazy in waiting for them, not working to make the most of this season, not living in hopeful anticipation.
This kind of living, looking toward the unknown future, trusting in the God who alone knows it, is the kind of abundant living we’re called to. It’s rich and beautiful, along with being challenging and difficult at times, but it’s real life. And it’s ours for the taking, if only we’ll choose to embrace it.
Even in the midst of difficult seasons and situations, we can choose to express gratitude for the good things that still exist and trust that there is more ahead. That’s what I’m striving for today. Will you join me? Give me a “yes!” in the comments to let me know you’re on board!
And don’t forget to grab your free Gratitude Journal to get started!