Thanksgiving is here! I encourage you today to lift your gratitude to the heart and ears of God. Thank him for all good in your life and the trials too; be boldly thankful like I encouraged you in last week’s blog. Above all, give thanks to God for the victory he has won in your life through Jesus Christ your savior.
For each true follower of Christ, there is a battle raging daily. You can feel it in every decision you make and action you take as your flesh (the sin in you) battles your spirit (the Holy Spirit that dwells in you after salvation). Paul recognized this easily and he wrote about it to the Romans in chapter 7. He writes at length regarding the desire of the Spirit in us to do good, God-pleasing works, while our flesh causes us to continue to sin. In verses 19 and 21 he says, “ For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.”
After a lengthy discourse, Paul says (I picture him shouting it), “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (verse 24). Oh, the frustration! It is overwhelming! The deeper your walk with Jesus is the more you hate the sin you see in yourself. And you see it constantly. You know that it is this sin that keeps you from serving your Lord with all of your heart. Yet, you can’t seem to get away from it. Like Paul says, you want to do right, but evil is always right there with you.
Are we without any hope? I am totally wretched, it’s true! I feel it just like Paul explains it in Romans 7. So who will rescue us from this body of death?
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! - verse 25
Paul gives the answer quickly…it’s Jesus Christ. Jesus is the only answer possible; he killed our sins when he died on the cross for us. Through Christ, the battle is already won! For those of us who follow Jesus, we know that he died once for all of our sins, every sin we will ever commit. The direct result and only appropriate response is thanksgiving! For that reason we shout, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” This knowledge causes us to surrender in thankful worship to the one who saves us from our wretchedness.
Lift your voices to God today and every day; give him the thanks due his name!
Ladies, my goal of this blog today is to encourage you to become boldly thankful every day. If you want joy in your life then giving thanks to God is the path that gets you there. Being thankful is the antidote to the dissatisfaction you are experiencing in life today. This may seem too simple and too close to wishful thinking, but I challenge you to put it into practice and see for yourself.
Here is what Paul has to say about giving thanks – “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
This verse includes three activities that we should be doing perpetually: rejoicing, praying, and giving thanks. That is what our days should look like; these are what should be on our lips continually: praise, prayers, and thanks to God. I want to focus on giving thanks because I believe that the other two will follow if you get that one right.
Give thanks in all circumstances. What does it take to always be thankful? An easy life? A life free from troubles and pain? Did Paul’s life look like that? No…read the book of Acts. Paul’s life after receiving Christ included beatings, imprisonment, shipwrecks, and more. He had no life of leisure. More importantly, look at the life of Jesus; he was hated, had no place to lay his head, and was brutally beaten and crucified. These examples should speak volumes to us today. We tend to think that those who lived two thousand years ago can’t identify with our lives or the pain we go through. Quite the opposite is true! We can’t relate to their lives of difficulties because of our lives of comfort. If Paul and Jesus could rejoice and give thanks to God in everything they went through, then I certainly can do the same in my life and through my difficulties.
I want to get very practical with you now, Ladies. I want to deal with the anti-thankful state we often find ourselves in; the state of want or dissatisfaction. If you are like me, you hate those feelings; always feeling a little behind and a little less than everyone else around you. Here is how you combat that emotion: get your eyes on Christ. Remove from your eyesight all earthly things that make you covet and want “more”. If you feel unsatisfied with your looks after reading a fashion magazine, trash it. If you feel unhappy with your home after watching HGTV, block the channel. If going to the mall makes you want to buy more stuff, stop going there. Be firm with yourself and get rid of distractions to thanksgiving. “Lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely” - Hebrews 12:1.
Recognize that these are all the Enemy’s attempts at stealing your joy. Fight that by giving thanks to God for what he has given you. I find that when I am thankful for the house, body and life situation that God has blessed me with, there is no room for discontent. With Christ I am completely full; there is no lacking or need unmet. This is not to say that I don’t have earthly needs, but my eternal needs (what is of utmost importance) are fully satisfied.
Paul knew exactly what he was talking about when he told the Thessalonians to “give thanks in all circumstances.” He knew that our varying circumstances don’t change our relationship with our Savior. No matter what else goes on around us, or what happens to us, if we have Jesus, we have everything. If you have accepted what he has done for you on the cross, you are eternally well and safe. You can never lose that relationship and that is why there is always reason to give thanks. Our God is an awesome and mighty God, and has promised that once you are his, no one can snatch you out of his hand (John 10:28,29). In that we rejoice and give thanks in every season and in all circumstances!
If you have not started this relationship with Jesus, you are not eternally secure and no amount of thanksgiving will get you there. There is no better time than right now to accept his gift. Allow God to fill you with his eternal blessings and begin a new life of thanksgiving; always living in anticipation of his goodness.
Ladies, I want you to be determined in this quest of giving thanks. Not just in the next couple of weeks, but always. Get rid of distractions in life that lead to dissatisfaction. Mothers, teach your children to be continually thankful. Let them see you praise God when difficulties come. With a thankful heart fully satisfied in God you will find true and everlasting joy.
Nothing happens by chance, there is no such thing as good luck, bad luck or coincidences, and there is purpose in everything. These are what comfort me late on Friday night as I watch smoke roll out of the building that was once our family business. God is in this. He has a plan… for my husband, for the business, for the city, and for me.
How do people live when they don’t understand this? When they feel that life is random? To feel as if their lives hinge on whether good or bad luck comes their way. That is no way to live; that is not the abundant life we are promised in John 10:10. If our life paths are left up in the air depending on what decisions we make and what luck we have then God is a liar. Psalms 139:16 - Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
This is not just pretty poetry; these are the words of Mighty Creator God through his servant David. He has written out every day of your life even before he formed you. Let the immensity of this hit you in the face. If you ever feel as if God does not know (and love) you, read the entirety of Psalms 139. Your feet do not walk a path by chance. If this is news to you don’t despair, it is something that has taken me years to grasp, and I still struggle with it.
So what is God’s plan in burning down our family business? The business that was started 44 years ago, built with hard work, is all my husband has ever known and provides for our family? I don’t know. I don’t need to know, I just need to trust that God knows. And really, that is everything to me. Maybe God wants to rebuild the business even better, maybe he wants to sever our dependence on something other than him, maybe God desires more of our attention. Maybe all of these things. One thing I’m sure of is that our prayers have become richer, our faith in Christ more sure, and our love for others deeper. The blessings are abounding already.
Had things been different and life been lost in this fire, God would still be good. We would still praise him. I like to picture our praise rising up to God just like the smoke from the fire. In Old Testament times, sacrificial offerings would be burned on an alter and the aroma that arose from this pleased the Lord (Numbers 29:2). I want my praise to do the same. I want God to burn away anything in my life that detracts me from him. I leave it all on the table.
God knew long ago that this fire would take place and that our lives would experience a shift. He also knows exactly how he plans to use this for his glory and I look so forward to that. Having dealt with tragedy in the past (more severe than this) I am honestly filled with excitement in anticipation of what God will do through this. I plan to be a part of it and wouldn’t miss it for the world. His love for us is overwhelming.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Romans 8:31, 32.
If you were in the midst of a struggle with deep loneliness and I told you I could relate because I experienced two weeks of loneliness, would that hold much weight with you? Probably not. What if instead, I told you that I experienced years of loneliness and can easily remember the pain and the times I cried out to God begging him to send just one good friend into my life. Does that change things? I believe it does.
I dealt with loneliness in my life during a time when I was living on my own, raising my son, and working very hard to get through nursing school and work a part time job. I was surrounded by others and stayed very busy, but I did not have even one close friend. It was a painful time in many ways and I just couldn’t understand why God was allowing it; especially for what seemed like such a long time.
However, it was during those years that I dug deep into God. I had been a believer for a while and trusted that God knew my struggles and would provide for me (even if I didn’t appreciate his time table). I read his Word and held tight to his promises, like God being a “Father of the fatherless” in Psalm 68:5 and the comforting words of “I will never leave you or forsake you.” in Hebrews 12:5. Did I still struggle with anger and bitterness? You bet, but even then God was patient and faithful.
I now look back and nearly explode with thanksgiving in what I see God was doing in my life at that time. I praise him for giving me tools I never would have had if that time had been easy and without burdens. I can relate to so many more women now than ever before. Not just with loneliness but a slew of other difficulties too. I received real life experiences that equipped me to battle alongside other women today.
It has taken me years to admit to the depth of loneliness I experienced during that time, but as I pursue a ministry of transparency, I am finding that so many women are able to relate to my experience. I can minister to them because God led me through this fire early on in life. He let me go through years of pain so that I would remember it well. So that I can now hug a hurting woman and say to her, “I know how you feel, let me tell you what God did in my life.” God speaks to this in 2 Corinthians 1:3, 4 -
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
What about you? What afflictions has God allowed in your life in order for you to better minister to others? Are you dealing with a chronic illness, a troubled marriage, or a difficult child? Do you feel like the situation will never end? This may be hard to grasp now, but God WILL use this for good in your life and very likely for the good of others too. Dig deep into him during this time and be determined to cling to Christ no matter what, knowing that you will receive comfort from him as promised above.
My life looks much different than it did back then, but I am so thankful for what God allowed and how he is faithful in using everything for my good and more importantly for his glory. I can now understand how what one day seems like such a heavy burden can later be seen as a gift. Don’t waste the gifts God is giving you right now. Use whatever is causing you pain to drive you toward Christ and turn what the Enemy planned for your harm into good. Maybe you know the pain of cancer, losing a child, or depression. God has allowed you to know this pain for a reason, don’t waste it.