Saying "Thanks" for the Tough Stuff

Scripture and tips to help you find gratitude even in difficult times.

By Elizabeth Peale Allen, Pawling, New York

It’s easy to give thanks for the things we’re genuinely grateful for. What’s hard, though, is to follow the words of Philippians 4:6, "Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks," (The Daily Life Bible).

Here are four areas where it’s hard to be thankful, but doing so can enrich our lives and our relationship with God.

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Thank You for Fear
Fear is, well… scary! The Bible tells us specifically, “Do not fear” (Isaiah 41:10) and that “perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18). But since we’re not perfect, fear is–and probably will be–part of our lives. Knowing that God can turn even the worst things to good means there’s something to be thankful for even in fear. For example, think how quickly our hearts turn to God! Deep anxiety and terror can drive us to our knees far faster than contentment.

Thank You for Sorrows
“My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise” says the psalmist in Psalm 51:17. Sorrows break our hearts–and also the shells we build around them.  To become like Christ, who was “a man of suffering, and familiar with pain” (Isaiah 53:3), we must accept our sorrows and allow God to transform us through them.  Those who mourn are, indeed, blessed (Matthew 5:4) because God “will wipe every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 21:4). This verse goes on to tell us that, as Christians, we have a wonderful future in heaven to look forward to. “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.” For this, we can be eternally thankful.

Thank You for Embarrassment
No one likes to be embarrassed. We regard humiliation as a bad experience, but in reality humility is the path we must take to learn to “value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:3-4). We can be thankful for embarrassing situations because they offer us the opportunity to grow in self-knowledge. “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom” (Proverbs 11:2). Any path which makes us wiser and more aware of how much pride we need to overcome is filled with opportunities to be thankful.

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Thank You for Hard-to-Forgive Situations
Being in a situation in which it’s hard to forgive others gives us the chance to practice Christ’s mandate to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Our hearts grow stronger as we become accustomed to responding to offenses with a merciful and forgiving attitude. Remember, we are called to forgive “not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:22). Fortunately, situations that are truly hard to forgive are infrequent for most of us. Developing the habit of practicing forgiveness in little things makes it easier for our hearts to want to forgive when the big challenges arise.

So whatever your circumstances today, let you prayer be: “I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart” (Psalm 9:1).