by Pastor Patrick Cho
As the Thanksgiving season is upon us, it reminds us to consider daily all the manifold reasons we have to praise God for His many blessings. The Apostle Paul teaches us that every spiritual blessing we enjoy is in Christ (Eph. 1:3). Of all people, we ought most to be thankful in that through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we have been forgiven of our sins, redeemed in Christ, reconciled to God, and made new in the Spirit. It is no wonder that Scripture commands us as Christ-followers to always be thankful (Phil. 4:6; 1 Thess. 5:18).
However, even for us who have been forgiven in Christ, it is easy to lose sight of God’s grace in our lives. It is easy to complain, become bitter, or be discontent. Of course, there are the mundane, daily distractions that war for our hearts so that we take our eyes off what is eternal and focus instead on what is temporal. But sometimes our hearts are discouraged by trials, suffering, attacks, weakness, etc., even severely. It isn’t that we are so much distracted by everyday life, but we find ourselves dealing with difficult people, conditions, or problems. How are we to be thankful then? It is in these times that obedience to this command is understandably challenging.
Praise God that even in times of trial, when we face hardship and suffering, we can still maintain a heart of thanksgiving. Scripture gives several reasons:
- There is purpose in our pain. We can be sure that our suffering is not in vain if we are in Christ. It is working out its purpose to shape us into the image of God’s Son (2 Cor. 4:7-11), and God is using it to mature us in faith (Rom. 5:3-5; James 1:2-4).
- Our painful experiences better equip us to sympathize and help others who are hurting (Rom. 12:15). It isn’t that we know exactly what they might be going through, but we do know what it means to hurt and to wait on the Lord in the midst of it.
- God uses our hardships to test our faith so that having passed the test, we might look forward to glory in heaven (2 Cor. 4:16-18; 1 Pet. 1:6-9).
- Our suffering reminds us of Christ who also suffered and sympathizes with our weaknesses and pain (Heb. 4:14-16).
- God uses our suffering to bring us into a more intimate relationship with Christ so that we might know Him more and understand better our union with Him (Phil. 3:7-14).
There is more revealed in God’s Word about why we ought to praise God in our pain, but these five reasons alone are sufficient to encourage our hearts. Let us trust Him who is eternally and infinitely good, even in our trials, because He is faithful and promises to work out our salvation to completion.