This Thanksgiving we are thankful for many things in our lives. We’re thankful for salvation, family, friends, food, community, love and the list goes on. This is what we have grown up doing. We are taught early on in our lives that we ought to give thanks for everything. We teach young children to always say “Please” and “Thank you”. And we know that just as we thank our parents for their provision, we thank our heavenly father for “every good and perfect gift which is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights…” (James 1:17)
Although this time of the year is set aside for and marked by thanksgiving, we often in the midst of the holidays find ourselves doing the opposite. We face conflicts with relationships, struggle with finances, and heightened tensions and anxieties in the business of it all. These hardships are trials, tempting us to lose sight of God’s goodness.
So how do we as believers respond to trials and remain thankful amidst them? Well, James 1:2 writes, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” So, we are told to rejoice in the midst of our trials, to do the opposite of what we are often prone to do, lose our joy, to cease our gratitude, to find something to complain about.
But we are human after all and this is in and of ourselves truly an impossible task. Our natural reaction to hardship is discouragement. So then, sinful and weak as we are, live up to Christ’s supernatural calling for us to rejoice and give thanks in the midst of our trials? Where do we find joy when there is seemingly none to be found?
Psalm 19:8 reads, “the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart…” David, a man who had and would continue to experience great hardships throughout his life knows that the Scripture could very tangibly bring joy to his life, that God’s promises conveyed hope. It is through the Scriptures that we are able to fix our eyes upon Christ, his promises, his commands, and his grace toward us.
Earlier in Psalm, David writes about exactly what happens when we fix our eyes upon Christ. He writes in Psalm 16:9-11:
Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.
For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let your holy one see corruption.
You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
David is unshakeable despite his trying circumstances. He knows that his eternity is secure, that God would not abandon him, not necessarily in the outcome of the trial, but in the outcome of his soul. And in that eternal promise, in that security, he found a fullness of joy.
So, we know that we can find in joy in Scripture, but how does this help us fight to stay thankful in the midst of our trials? We can look to Christ who endured the greatest trial of all. Hebrews 12:2 states “…For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus was able to endure mocking, scorn, suffering, injustice, and most importantly, the wrath of God by looking up and beyond his crucifixion. May we in all of the difficulties we face in the coming months, continue to look to Scripture, to remind ourselves of our imperishable inheritance and eternal life. Let us, as we look more often to Christ, be given an abundance of reasons to rejoice and give thanks.
I pray that the Lord give us the grace as a church to completely rely on God’s word and grow in our faith of and obedience to it.
~Pastor Sam Mathews