Grateful, even for the storms

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’ s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NIV)

Our family has a Thanksgiving tradition where we go around the table and share what we are thankful for as we remember how God had blessed us that year.

It starts out with simple things: marriage, a new baby in the family or a promotion at work. And then there’s that one teenage cousin who always says something about pizza.

Just as the comments quiet down, a family member — never the same person from year to year — turns the entire room to silence with a story of God’s faithfulness to them through heartache. The Kleenex box is retrieved from the hall bathroom, and it’s passed down the line to soak up all the tear-drenched faces.

There are tears of joy and even tears of sorrow and grief. The tears come from a gratefulness to God for walking beside them during a health issue or the loss of a loved one. For God remaining steadfast when they were lonely, desperate and brokenhearted. Even if the storm is still raging, they feel His presence.

Everyone has different family traditions, but we all encounter the storms of life. Harsh and threatening as they seem at first, storms have the ability to pave a unique path to thankfulness.

November is an especially thank-filled time for me. This year marks the fourth anniversary of my biggest storm yet — brain surgery to remove a tumor. Learning to trust God through the excruciating headaches, dizziness and mental confusion, and relying on His strength, instead of my own, was a blessing in disguise.

Sleepless nights gave way to prayers, and surrendering my expectations turned my sadness to joy. Despite the long road to recovery, I was able to accept God’s will and even be thankful for it.

When life is easy, gratefulness is easy. But not in the storms. Not in the worried nights of anxiety or the lonely house begging for the sound of a familiar voice. Not in the empty nursery or pocketbook. Not in the hospital when pacing the waiting room hoping for good news. Gratefulness hinges on our willingness to accept God’s will over our own. Accepting that He is in control, and we can trust Him.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, we see God’s instruction to always be thankful: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

In the storms of life, God is our only hope. His faithfulness and His goodness are present even during the darkest storm. It might not happen immediately, but thankfulness grows as we cling to Him. We are grateful not only for the joys of restored health and overcoming grief, but for the sorrows that brought us to a place of utter dependence on Jesus.

This Thanksgiving — before your family digs into the pumpkin pie — reflect on what God has done this year. Offer gratitude not only for the “easy-sailing” blessings, but also for the storms.

Dear God, thank You not only for Your countless blessings, but for the challenges that draw us near to You. Thank You for the hard moments when You gave me the strength to wait out the storm. Jesus, You are so good. Whatever storms come into my life, You are my Rock and my Shelter. Thank You for Your sustenance that fills me, Your light that surrounds me, and Your love that never fails. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

by Wendi Lou Lee

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