This time of year, we often hear messages about thankfulness – calls to be grateful for the goodness we experience in our lives.
This will be a different message.
This Thanksgiving, I’m encouraging us to think about how we can be thankful for the challenges in our lives – the painful times, the broken relationships, the financial struggles, the disappointments of failed efforts.
A Real-Life Story of Struggle & Its Rewards
Recently, I was talking with a friend and reflecting on a difficult time in his life, when he felt called into full-time ministry. He gave up a lot to follow what he believed to be God’s call on his life. He left a promising career, experienced financial hardship, lost friends who didn’t understand his “crazy” decision, and saw his family struggle with his choices.
Then, for many reasons, the path he felt he would be on didn’t work out. The natural response we’d expect to this experience? Feelings of failure for the disappointments he lived through.
But here’s a different perspective: God has used and can use all of these experiences for a more important calling.
Because of his struggles, this friend is now able to understand and relate to others who have gone through – or are going through – a similar situation. Currently, he is mentoring a pastor who is experiencing some difficulties, and the hard times he’s lived through in his past have prepared him for this current reality, in turn helping someone else get through a tough time in life.
A Lesson in Challenging Gratitude
So, what if we view failures, setbacks, defeat, and frustrations as preparation for something bigger and more important that God has in store for us?
I myself experienced a very painful divorce, and had a difficult time being grateful for that experience. But in the fullness of time, I now see many of the ways that this difficulty led to things I can easily be thankful for. Today, I am married to the most wonderful woman I have ever met. This would not have happened without the painful experience of my divorce.
Our experiences – bad or good – help us to grow and mature in our walk. Usually, it’s difficult for us to see how the most challenging times are reasons for thankfulness. The pain and hurt are so hard to deal with, that we can’t think about much else.
But with perspective and the benefit of hindsight, we can often see God’s hand in our difficult experiences, and become thankful for the growth and correction that our Lord has worked in our lives. Moving forward with this wisdom, we might better learn to adopt an attitude of gratitude in bad times and good.
Wouldn’t it be awesome if at the time of these difficult life experiences, we had the maturity to be thankful? While this is not easy, it is a good goal to strive for.
Bless you in your journey to be a good and faithful steward of all God has blessed you with, even the difficult times!