“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18
I remember sitting around the Thanksgiving table and growing up as each person shared what they were thankful for.
The answers were fairly predictable – food to eat, a home to live in, friends and family. These are all wonderful reasons to give thanks. However, I can’t help but think we are missing out on the kind of gratitude that gives thanks in all circumstances, not just the ones where things are going well.
What would that kind of gratitude look like?
Here are four unexpected things to be thankful for:
1. THE TIMES WHEN GOD ANSWERS YOUR PRAYERS WITH “NO.” When God says “Yes” to our prayers, we have reason to rejoice, right? After all, every good and perfect gift is from Him (James 1:17). But sometimes God answers with a “No” or a “Not Yet,” and as hard as it may be, these answers give us just as much reason to rejoice as a “Yes.” God promises that He always has the best interest of His children in mind. We may never understand why or how, but God is always working for our eternal good and joy, and His answers to our prayers are always meant to make us more and more like Jesus.
2. UNDERSTANDING OUR WEAKNESSES AND LIMITATIONS. We tend to view our limitations as barriers to success or happiness and our weaknesses as something we must overcome. But God says it’s only when we are weak that we can be truly strong because His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). Our weaknesses and limitations are a gift because they lead us to dependence on the one who made us, sustains us, and gives us everything we need. What weaknesses allow you to experience the grace of God today?
3. THE TIMES WHEN GOD REVEALS OUR SINS. Being confronted with sin is uncomfortable, but it’s a gift when God allows us to see the hidden sins in our hearts. Sin only leads to death and destruction, and it’s God’s grace to reveal it and cleanse us from it. Conviction of sin is like receiving a painful diagnosis—the news is difficult, but being aware of the problem makes way for healing.
4. THE GROWTH GOD IS PRODUCING IN YOUR LIFE. Until Jesus returns, we will struggle with sinful thoughts, actions, and attitudes. Growth can feel slow and sometimes frustrating, but if you look back over the months and years past, you may be surprised to see how much God has changed you. Has your self-control grown? Do you respond to challenging situations with more wisdom than you once did? Have you seen God pruning you and weeding out pride in your life?
Take time to reflect on the changes you found. Like watching a child grow up, growth is imperceptible from one day to the next, but when you look back over the course of months or years, the difference is astounding.
So what are you thankful for?
Whether you find yourself around a large Thanksgiving table surrounded by family & friends, or you are mourning the loss of all you know this year could have been, turn your heart to unconventional gratitude this season.
Turn your heart to Jesus.
Written by Joanna Kimbrel, Guest Contributor