“Thank you for this day, for my food, for my family… “
Isn’t this the standard “thank you, God” list? This is the easy list. The things we are grateful for because we understand why we have them and we like that we do.
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (I Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV)
When was the last time you prayed a thank you prayer for your broken leg, your car wreck, your husband’s job loss, or the political chaos? Now this is the ridiculously hard list. The list we, in our humanness, cannot embrace easily. And certainly not thankfully.
To paraphrase Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts, if Adam and Eve had remained grateful, would they have committed the original sin? Adam and Eve wanted to be something God didn’t call them to be: to be like God. If they had spent time in thanksgiving for everything while rejoicing for all that God gave them, their eyes would have remained firmly focused on Him.
The devil seeks to destroy (I Peter 5:8) us as he did Adam and Eve. Ingratitude is one of his most effective and destructive tools. When the hardest circumstances in life occur, our vision to God is clouded by questions of “why,” “how,” and “when.”
God doesn’t always supply answers to our questions. He doesn’t have to. However, He does give us tools that will keep us focused on him. Thankfulness, rejoicing, and prayer are tools that defeat jealousy, fear, anxiety, anger, and so forth. Have you ever tried to be angry and thankful at the same time? It doesn’t work.
Our First Baby
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)
“I’m pregnant!” I jumped in the air and threw my arms around my husband’s neck. Together we cried happy tears. Finally, we would become first-time parents. Since this would be the first grandchild on both sides of the family, much rejoicing took place, followed by prayers of thanksgiving. Baby showers, nursery painting, and furniture purchasing became part of our expectant days. During our 4-month checkup, we heard our baby’s heartbeat. We were amazed that the gray and white fuzzy on the ultrasound screen was our baby boy.
My husband came home early from work to drive me to our 5-month check up. The little guy was kicking up a storm that morning so we couldn’t wait to hear his heartbeat again. The smiling doctor arrived, asked how things were going, and if we had questions. He began the examination by listening for the heartbeat. He listened with his stethoscope, pushed lightly on my stomach, and listened again. No heartbeat. Panic. Fear. Angst. Our hearts twisted with breathlessness.
The next day, further hospital tests confirmed that our son had died the day before, sometime between the morning and our doctor appointment. Thankfulness did not cross my mind. “Why” sure did!
Jonathan was delivered still born a few days later. A cystic hygroma at the base of his brain killed him.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV)
That was 34 years ago. Today, knowing in my heart what God commands, I’m thankful that:
- Jonathan didn’t live because he would have been severely challenged mentally.
- He is dancing in heaven with Jesus today.
- I will meet him in heaven one day.
- It changed me from a rebellious life to a Jesus-focused life.
It is hard to be thankful for that pain. I sure don’t understand why it was part of God’s plan for us—I don’t have to. However, I have learned that through thanksgiving, I can accept and embrace that His plan for my life is filled with hope and no harm. God gave us blessings to replace our loss. We now have two beautiful daughters, two sons-in-law, and two precious grandchildren.
What circumstances in your life need a covering of prayer, rejoicing, and thanksgiving? How has God revealed His perfect plan in your life even though it was uncomfortable or painful? Are you thanking Him even though you don’t understand?
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7 NIV)