I found this lovely devotion on the WELS homepage, and it really spoke to my heart. Here it is. Happy Thanksgiving!
Think of three things you would like solved, changed, or cured in your life? Do you want a job you actually like? No more unexpected expenses killing your budget? What about an illness afflicting you or a loved one? If we allow ourselves, we can think of plenty of things that just don’t seem to be good in our lives. But have you ever thought to be thankful for everything – even hardships?
Sometimes being a Christian can be challenging, but with God’s comfort and encouragement, we can also be thankful, even in hardships.
St. Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5, “16 Be joyful always; 17 pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. …
23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.”
Be joyful always? Give thanks in all circumstances? It’s not that we say, “Thank you, God, for mass murderers and evil dictators. Please send more.” But, what we can and should say is, “Thank you, God, for this hardship in my life, this struggle, this pain. I know you have a reason for it. I know you have allowed it not to punish me, but because you love me—and to accomplish your purposes.”
How can there possibly be joy in our hardships? How can we be thankful for the pain and frustrations in our life? God tells us in Romans 5: 1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”
Knowing that God is always working for us or through us for the sake of others, we can pray for the strength to say “thank you” for his guiding, ruling influence in life, his control of things to serve his best purposes. Forgiveness, faith, and salvation matter most. They are the big things sometimes nurtured in ourselves and in others through sorrows and hurts.
Romans 8 says: “35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
And with that comforting outlook, we can all enter the Thanksgiving holiday, thankful for all circumstances – even those three things you want to change.