How do you cope when tough times hit? How do you cope when your doctor gives you a diagnosis of stage 3 cancer … or when you get a pink slip when you were hoping for a promotion … or when you receive divorce papers as a shocking substitute for an anniversary present?
As a pastor, I’ve known people who have had to deal with these sorts of crushing disappointments. What does God tell us to do in times like these? Give thanks!
Now, I understand that it’s easy to give thanks to God when things are going well. But what about when your world has been turned upside down by heartbreak? You might feel like Mrs. Job when she and her husband lost all their children, all their wealth and Job came down with the terribly painful disease of sore boils. Did she say, “Let’s give thanks, Job”?! No!! She said, “Let’s curse God and die!” Can you relate to those feelings? I know I can.
It may sound crazy to give thanks during tough times, but it changes everything when you can be grateful even when the going gets rough. Let me share with you three reasons why.
First, giving thanks keeps you from getting bitter. Bitterness is a cancer in the soul that eats away at everything good and godly in your life.
Think of Corrie ten Boom, the Dutch Christian who was sent to a Nazi concentration camp during World War II. One day as she was really feeling the weight of her suffering, she said to God in honest prayer, “God, if this is how You treat Your friends, I can understand why you have so few of them.” You see, we have a tendency to judge God’s goodness based on our present circumstances. If things are going well, we think God is good. If things are going badly, then He’s not.
But Corrie and her sister Betsy got a new perspective. Along with other prisoners, they had been stripped naked and were being gawked at by jeering Nazi soldiers. They felt humiliated. But then Corrie said to Betsy, “Jesus hung naked on the Cross.” “Oh Corrie, that is right,” Betsy replied. “And I haven’t even thanked Him for it.” Just then, bitterness turned to thanks and praise as Corrie and Betsy learned to trust that God is good—even during the worst that life could throw at them.
The second reason to give thanks is that thankfulness shows that you still love and trust God. When you thank God in the midst of trials, you’re saying, “God, You’re greater than this!” You’re not denying that you have problems, but you’re looking to God and trusting that He’s good and has a good solution. It always gets people’s attention when you’re going through a hard time and you still praise the Lord!
But when you’re suffering, what you really want is a way out, right? Well, the third reason to give thanks is that being thankful brings deliverance by unleashing the power of God in your situation. Now, sometimes God calms the storm and sometimes He calms His child. But one way or another, through your gratitude even in the midst of the storm, He’s going to bring the peace you seek.