The Path from Pain to Thanksgiving
Thankfulness is extremely hard when you are suffering. It almost feels cruel to say, “Thank you,” when you are grieving. It may seem callous or naïve.
But sometimes people remind us to be thankful at moments when it feels the most impossible.
I don’t believe most people say this to hurt us.
I don’t think they offer it as a platitude because they don’t know what else to say.
I think it is just the opposite.
They remind us to have an attitude of gratitude because they know that we must never lose sight of God’s great faithfulness, even in the moments of our deepest hurts.
The Gospel Coalition explains, “When our world seems to be falling apart, how can we be expected, as Paul tells us, to ‘give thanks in all circumstances’ (1 Thessalonians 5:18)? Is the apostle saying we must be thankful for these troubles? As Jim Burns explains, ‘No. If you look closely you’ll see that Paul is not telling you to be thankful for these things; rather we are to be thankful in our circumstances. There is a major difference between being thankful for every situation in life and being thankful in those situations. He challenges us to find reasons to be thankful even in the worst of struggles.’”
People aren’t suggesting you should be thankful for the death or the job loss.
Instead, they are trying to remind you to be thankful amid the hardship.
And … There is a good reason to be.
Billy Graham says, “Nothing turns us into bitter, selfish, dissatisfied people more quickly than an ungrateful heart. And nothing will do more to restore contentment and the joy of our salvation than a true spirit of thankfulness.”
We don’t want our circumstances, no matter how painful they may be, to turn us bitter. Hence, the need for thankfulness. And, yes, it is possible.
If Paul could thank God while imprisoned, and if David could thank God while mourning his child, then we can find reasons to be thankful too.
To help us understand the path from pain to thanksgiving, we are using Thankfulness: Even When It Hurts by Susan Lutz.
Why Give Thanks
The Bible is packed full of verses encouraging thankfulness.
Lutz explains, “The Bible is full of commands to give thanks to God because it is not our human instinct, and in that way, we are out of sync with the rest of the universe.”
Because we are sinners, our natural inclination is toward ourselves, not others.
But, as Lutz explains, “[God] calls us to be thankful as a concrete and practical protection against the spiritual hazards of life here on earth.”
Ultimately, no matter what pains we face on earth, we are faced with the choice to move towards God or away from him.
Thankfulness moves us towards him.
Thankfulness refines us and helps us through the painful situations we are facing.
You Enter the Presence of God
Expressing thankfulness takes you out of your situational headspace and into the presence of God.
Lutz explains, “You instantly are reminded that you are not alone in your situation, isolated, feeling as if you’ve been left to fight your battles on your own. When you are thankful, you remember that you are living your life in God’s presence.”
You Start to See Your Life Differently
When we are suffering, it is very easy to focus on the cause of the suffering and nothing else.
By expressing thankfulness, even for the smallest of things, we can move beyond this.
We can go from being problem-focused to God-focused.
Lutz writes, “There will be something—a verse, a phone call from a friend that reminds you that God has not forgotten, a specific answer to prayer. Thank God specifically for that reminder of his presence. Let it shape the way you take that next small step. God wants you to see that nothing happens in your life that he cannot use redemptively, which means that he can use it for good, to bless you and help you to grow in your understanding of him.”
You Defeat Satan’s Efforts of Distortion
When you are dealing with something difficult, Satan will use the situation to make you doubt God and your reality.
You will begin to see things that aren’t really true and will grow fearful.
When something bad happens, we immediately jump to worries about even worse possibilities.
Lutz says, “Being thankful breaks that cycle. It is one of God’s ways to reset our default mode, to renew our minds and put us in touch with our new heart, which knows that God is good. Romans 8:32 says, ‘He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?’ This needs to be our default mode.”
You Trust in God’s Promises
Thankfulness allows us to see our life in view of God’s promises rather than on our current circumstances.
Lutz explains, “You learn how to see your circumstances through the lens of God’s Word, instead of interpreting God’s Word through the lens of your experiences, which always dilutes, devalues, and diminishes God.”
We know from reading God’s Word that He has always been faithful, so we can trust him to be faithful in our lives.
You Start to See Yourself Differently
In addition to thankfulness helping you view your circumstances through a different lens, it will also help you see yourself differently.
Lutz says, “When you have a thankful heart, you affirm that, because of Jesus, God is up to something good in your life.”
Your Relationships Improve
The more faith you put in Jesus Christ, the less dependent you will be on others.
As a result, your relationships will improve.
Lutz explains, “We always have to start with the Lord and his redemptive purposes before we think about the people in a particular situation. If you can understand God’s good purposes for you, what you expect of people and what you fear about them both diminish.”
You Prevent Future Sins
Many sins can be prevented by having a thankful heart.
For example, pride has a hard time working in a thankful heart. So does envy or self-righteousness.
According to Lutz, “Being thankful also serves as a preventative against many problems and sins. If you make the choice to be thankful, there are a lot of battles you probably won’t have to fight.”
You Find a Direct Line to Your Heavenly Father
Finally, expressing thankfulness in all circumstances gives us a direct line to our Heavenly Father.
Lutz explains, “Being thankful is God’s way of giving us a direct line to him, an instant and intimate connection to a powerful and loving Heavenly Father despite all the evil that surrounds us. It is a way for us to leapfrog over all the things we do not understand and cannot fix, to put ourselves into God’s loving, powerful arms. Being thankful does not mean living in denial, suppressing our feelings, or ignoring reality. It means being honest, but bringing all those things to a God who has promised to love us and demonstrated it by sending his Son to be our Savior. It brings us nearer to heaven, and helps us to overcome the world.”