Anna is a pastor, writer, and theologian who obtained her BA in religion in '06, Diploma of Ministry in '16, and Diploma of Divinity in '17.
Finding the Strength to be Thankful When Times Are Tough
Life moves pretty quickly, and it often seems that the older we get the faster it moves. Sometimes we just don’t have time to sit down and take inventory of what we have. In times of scarcity or hardship, it can be even more difficult to see how good things really are. Indeed, it can seem insulting to even suggest it. To a person who has unexpectedly lost a loved one, sitting down to catalogue the things you do have may seem like a knife twisting inside an open wound. To one who is going to bed with hunger pains, or the one who breaks the bank buying a tank of gas just to get to work, it can be really hard to be thankful for all the past times that the stomach was full, or a gallon of gas was merely an afterthought.
We tend to be stuck in our current state, and think that the troubles we have will last forever. When we remember the blessings of the past, or the possible bounty of the future, it can seem so distant that it may as well have happened to a different person entirely. David certainly knew such suffering. The Bible doesn’t gloss over its heroes, we know well the torment that he endured. Some was from his own making, while others were just unfortunate events that colored the fabric of his life. He had to flee the jealousy and rage of Saul and live on the outskirts of society in fear of his own life.
Eventually, Saul died and David became king. He was on top of the world, but his joy wouldn’t last. David lost the son he’d had during his affair with Bathsheba. A heartbreaking penalty for his own sins, yet David showed true repentance. His grown son Amnon raped Tamar, his own sister. In revenge, David’s other son, Absalom, killed Amnon and later staged a coup against David. Once more, David had to flee for his life. Absalom was killed in the uprising. For those keeping count; that’s three sons now dead, two of them having died violent deaths. David was so heartbroken over the death of Absalom that it demoralized the troops who risked their lives to take him down. Meanwhile, Tamar, having been raped, could no longer marry. As a princess, she very likely had had an arrangement since birth to a neighboring prince. Instead, she died a broken woman. With the death of Absalom, her only protector, and the cultural norms of the time, she had nothing left. No prospects, no chance for marriage, and her ultimate fate is unknown.
The trumpeters and musicians joined in unison to give praise and thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals, and other instruments, the singers raised their voices in praise to the Lord and sang: He is good; His love endures forever."
— 2 Chronicles 5:13
David was a human being, like all humans, he was deeply flawed. Despite his serious faults, God singled him out as a man of faith. The books of 1st and 2nd Samuel show us the depths of David’s faith and his genuine repentance when he’s done wrong. For all his mistakes and imperfections, David never missed an opportunity to turn to God for comfort and praise. While the books of Samuel detail accounts of the triumphs and tragedies of David, the book of Psalms offer a glimpse into his soul. The poetry that he wrote shows us the full width and breadth of his joy and anguish. David suffered in ways that most people never will, yet he still found the peace to acknowledge the grace of God.
In the 30th Psalm, David recognizes that difficulties are a fact of life, but that God’s care lasts longer than temporary troubles. Verses four and five tell us to “Sing to the Lord, you saints of His; praise His holy name. For His anger lasts only a moment, but His favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” Even when things look bad, we can still praise the Lord. We can take comfort that His goodness and grace outlast any problem that we face here on earth. Verses eight through twelve describe how he calls to the Lord during hard times and the Lord shows him mercy. God turns his wailing into dancing, and replaces his garments of grief with clothes of joy.
I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
— Psalm 9:1
The Joy of Paul
The Old Testament gives us insight into the struggles and faith of David. The New Testament allows us to see the same in the apostle Paul. He too, has endured anguish that most of us can’t imagine. He’s been whipped, beaten, and imprisoned. Yet through all that, he still found joy in the Lord. Many of his epistles begin with a recount of blessings, thanksgiving, and prayer. He gives thanks for the faithfulness of others, a faithfulness which remained despite their own persecutions and trials. He gave thanks for the hope that the early churches had in God, their love for Jesus, and indeed, for all the saints. Paul knew that the hope they had in heaven would one day be rewarded. Colossians 1:12-14: “Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought is into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” We can plainly see how much joy the faithfulness of the early church gave to the apostle Paul. He was thankful for them and proud of them the way a parent is thankful and proud of a child.
The Bible is filled with examples of men and women who have remained faithful to God despite their own trials. But as Psalm 30 reminds us; “weeping is only for a night.” Let us not forget about the more joyous occasions in life. Times when we get that promotion, or pay off a car note. The birth of a child, a new home, a marriage, a new puppy. Those are all cheerful moments that make life what it is. We shouldn’t neglect God and turn to Him only when we’re in trouble. God is truly wonderful. The Creator of Heaven and earth has mercy on all He has made. He provides all our needs, and has remained faithful to us through everything. There is so much to be thankful for.
We should praise God for all the happiness He blesses us with throughout our lives. In Psalm 18:3 David calls to the Lord because he knows He is worthy of praise. We should never fail to go to Him with thanksgiving for all that he provides. Nor should we only praise him during life’s big celebrations. We should thank him for all the little things too, because those little things make up life. Beautiful sunsets, autumn leaves, sparkling rivers, the morning’s first sip of coffee, the Lord provides and He is good. We should do as the psalmist instructs us in Psalm 150 and praise Him in His mighty heavens, praise Him for His acts of power, let everything that has breath praise the Lord! So go now and give thanks to the Lord, for His love endures forever.
For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.
— 1 Timothy 4:4-5
© 2017 Anna Watson