November. The month where we do two things: get ready for the madness of December and give thanks. I always feel like November 1 through January 1 is the craziest time of the year around our house. You too? Like many others, I make a point of expressing the gratitude I feel throughout November.
This is an important discipline—giving thanks.
And it’s one we need more of in our greedy, grabby world. So many people in my life have experienced true heartache and profound loss over the past year. And, if we’re all really honest, most of us have days when it’s not as easy to find reasons for gratitude.
How do we learn to give thanks even when we don’t feel thankful?
Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). All circumstances, even when it’s hard, when it’s awful and when we just don’t feel it. The call on a disciple’s life is to give thanks IN all circumstances. Not FOR them, but IN them. Which means, we must learn to see God’s good gifts (James 1:17) even in the midst of the most challenging, hurtful, and sorrowful situations in our life.
When I think about someone who has faced hardship, Job naturally comes to mind. You remember his story, right? He was righteous, even offering sacrifices on behalf of his children just in case they had sinned and failed to confess.
In Job 1 and 2, we get to see a cosmic conversation between God and Satan. God pointed to Job’s righteousness and Satan countered with God’s protection, asserting that if difficulty entered Job’s life, he would stop praising God. God allowed Satan not one but two opportunities to test Job’s faith.
And in those first two chapters of the book bearing his name, Job teaches us three truths about giving thanks when we don’t feel thankful.
First, it’s okay to grieve.
In both situations we read that Job mourned. He tore his robe and shaved his head upon finding out about the loss of his children and property (1:20) and when he became sick himself, he scraped the sores with a broken piece of pottery (2:8). Don’t feel guilty about your grief. There is space in God’s love for us for our grief. And remember, He knows grief and loss as well.
Second, choose to give God glory.
The end of Job 1:20, after he has torn his clothes and shaved his head, we read he “fell on the ground and worshiped.” One of the most powerful verses in Scripture is Job 1:21: And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” And in chapter two when his wife challenges Job to curse God and die, he responded, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not received evil?” (Job 2:10).
I don’t offer this lightly. It’s hard to do. But our desire, our goal, even in our grief must be to see God at work, to point to His glory.
Finally, refocus on God’s goodness to us.
In both situations, Scripture uses the same words, “In all this, Job did not sin.” In chapter 1 we read Job didn’t charge God with wrong (1:22) and in chapter two, he did not sin with his lips (2:10). Did Job struggle to see God’s goodness? I have to believe He did. But, unlike so many of us, Job chose to wrestle through his grief with the Lord as his guide. Far too often, we whine to others when we need to be wresting with God.
This year, as you look ahead to Thanksgiving, maybe your table will be missing some people from last year or maybe someone there will be facing a scary diagnosis or maybe you’re just having a hard time seeing God’s goodness in your situation. It’s okay. Don’t add guilt to your burden. But maybe take some time to read Job’s story and learn from him how to refocus your thoughts and mind on God and learn to “give thanks in all circumstances.”
Have you ever struggled to be thankful? What is a way you’ve learned to refocus your thoughts?
Want more encouragement for focusing on the Lord during the holiday season? Check out these posts: