One year for Thanksgiving, I thought it would be a good idea to list out 100 things for which I was thankful. Maybe you’ve done something similar; maybe your list was like mine:
2. My family
3. My friends
23. A home to live in
24. A car to drive
57. Crisp, fall mornings
58. Tiny, baby toes
99. Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
100. Deep-Fried Turkey
Okay, well hopefully your list was a little better than mine. I’ve noticed though that when we think about what we’re thankful for, it is often sentimental, pleasant images that come to mind and are passed around the dinner table.
While I know God really does want me to be thankful for baby toes and a delicious Thanksgiving dinner, “Giving Thanks” is more than just a nice idea; it is a secret weapon designed by God to allow us to experience Him—to experience Him no matter the circumstance. Good day, bad day, celebration, persecution, trial, heartbreak. And not just experience part of Him, but experience all of Him—His peace, His presence, His hope, His joy, His life.
Maybe Paul was speaking about this same secret weapon in Philippians 4:11-12.
“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”
If you’ve read much of the New Testament, you know Paul went through it all. Yet he tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “Be thankful in all circumstances!” Can you imagine how different Paul’s list might have looked from mine?
Paul’s life is teaching us that even in the hardest of places, we can choose to be thankful. This idea has challenged me a lot the past year as there were many times I found myself in a hard place. There was no major trial or tragedy in my life, but each day I woke up feeling down—overwhelmed by my responsibilities, dissatisfied by my circumstances, critical of myself. It was pretty miserable.
As I was determined to figure out ways to change my circumstances to alleviate my misery, I felt the Holy Spirit correct me gently but firmly: I wasn’t thankful. When I realized how I had been walking around with a grumbly heart towards God, I was so saddened. In repentance, I began to look at every hard thing and find a way to say,“thank you, God” within it.
Thank you, God, that the loneliness of motherhood is an opportunity to experience your presence.
Thank you, God, that having more on my plate than I can handle means I get to rely on you.
Thank you God, that my husband can’t meet my every need so I remember I was made to be satisfied in you.
And guess what? Everything changed! Well, nothing actually changed. My life stayed the exact same. But I changed! Thankfulness changed me! Instead of being burdened by my responsibilities, I was overjoyed with the privilege of serving others. Instead of looking at what I didn’t have, I was humbled by all I did have. Instead of waking up feeling down, I woke up full of life! I woke up to experiencing God!
You see, being thankful in all circumstances means looking for God in all circumstances. You’ll always find Him, as I know Paul did. And that’s the secret—as you thank God, you make space for Him to come into every hard place, and a hard place with God is better than the best place without Him. For that, I am truly thankful.
By Lena Satterlee