GIVING THANKS WHEN YOU DON’T FEEL LIKE IT                                                           Andy Hollifield 9-3-17

Ephesians 5:20  Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;

1 Thessalonians 5:18  In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

2 Timothy 2:7  Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things.

Sometimes as I sit and think about what to write, it almost seems like I have written everything I know and can’t come up with anything else.  The sad thing is that I am 52 years old and it has taken less than a year to write it all.  Yet each time I start to put forth the effort God brings something else to mind.  I have always found myself to be an excellent example of how NOT to do things.  I have already poured out my heart in print and exposed both good and bad in my life to ever try to lift myself up as an example of how to live a Christian life.  I have managed to learn a few things over the years and have earned every white hair on my head.  The sad part is that if I had listened to godly counsel a lot of times and to the Lord himself, I would look a lot younger than I do.  I sometimes answer someone when they ask if I am Andy I will say “what’s left of him.”  I just do it for the humor and it is a good ice breaker with strangers, but sometimes that is kind of how it feels.  But; in spite of everything, by the grace and mercy of God I am still standing.  That is what I want to talk about and try to encourage you.

Quite often, we get the idea that we are supposed to be super human and never let anything get us down.  That all sounds good but the fact is that sometimes the weight of our responsibilities or trials we go through can seem to be a crushing weight that we can’t hold up under.  That only adds to our shame and guilt because we quite honestly expect too much of ourselves in that regard.  Even Christ in the garden of Gethsemane asked the Lord to “let this cup pass from me”.  He too, being 100% man had a dread of what he was fixing to have to go through.  But, also being 100% God, he prayed “nevertheless, not my will but thine be done”.  But we are not perfect yet and by no means rise to the level of Christ.  I still have trouble in my flesh with accepting adversity no matter what form it comes in, and I definitely have trouble giving thanks FOR it and especially while I am IN it.

If you look closely at the verse in Ephesians 5:20, it says “giving thanks always FOR all things”.  The next verse in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “IN everything give thanks…”  The verse in Ephesians says, “giving thanks always”.  I try to be a grateful person and thank God for his abundant blessings in my life but then it says “FOR ALL” things.  That means good and bad.  It is hard for me to be thankful for hurtful stuff such as the death of a friend or loved one or the loss of a friend for other reasons or for financial troubles or mechanical problems  or having to replace the washer and dryer.  Those are painful times that cause great distress and no one enjoys them.  But after a lot of years I finally figured out that there are some things we can only learn by going through these difficult times.  I mentioned earlier that I wish that I had listened to godly counsel.  The trials that I had to go through by not listening taught me lessons that I would not have learned any other way.  God is a loving and merciful God and if he could have got them through my thick head any other way, he would have.  I know that God can do anything but he wants us to be obedient out of our love for him not because he forces us to.  You can rest assured that those lessons I learned in those times have stuck with me and for the most part I have not had to repeat them.

The other part that I have difficulty with has been IN all things.  It is hard enough to give thanks FOR a lot of those things even after we have seen how God worked in them, much less while we are going through them at the time.  But what his word says is while we are IN them, we should be thankful.  Just like being thankful FOR all things, being thankful IN all things requires us to humble ourselves under God’s hand like at no other time.  It is one thing to say you have faith but it is quite another to have it while you are IN something or having to give thanks FOR something that is hurtful.  I will give you one example in my life that God taught me both of these lessons at one time.  It was in 2007 when my dad passed away.  We knew it was coming and had seen him suffer for a while and knew that whenever God took him, it would be because of his love and mercy in my dad’s life.  I wasn’t happy FOR that event and definitely not while I was IN the middle of it.  I noticed something that afternoon while sitting there on dad’s front porch with my older brother.  We begin to talk about things we had done and dad caught us at and some that we didn’t get caught at.  We also recounted a lot of funny events and just some fun times we had enjoyed with him.  Before we even realized what was happening, we were laughing and having a good time on one of the darkest days of our lives.  We experienced grace like we had never needed before.  I had experienced his grace in abundance through my kidney transplant and the miscarriage of our first child but on the porch that day was a different kind of grace.  I still wasn’t thrilled about the fact my dad was gone but at the same time I was thankful he didn’t have to suffer any more than what he did.  Right IN the middle of that dark time, I found that I could be thankful FOR the way the Lord had been merciful.  No, I still don’t like it almost 10 years later and God knows I don’t because I have told him many times that I didn’t like it or understand it.  Over time I figured out that, just like my dad had done all of my life, God had to make decisions that was best for all involved and he was under no obligation to explain himself to me.  If we aren’t careful, in troubled times especially, we will get the idea that somehow God is supposed to explain what he does to us.  If we wait for that, we will likely be disappointed.  But if we just humble ourselves to him, we will experience abundant grace like we have never thought possible.  Who would have ever thought that my brother and I would have been laughing and cutting up on his porch on the day he died?  It wasn’t being disrespectful by no means.  It was simply an outpouring of God’s grace.

Don’t ever think that God is going to strike you down because you ask him a question about something.  Just humble yourself and submit to him before you ask or start complaining.  He loves you and he will give you grace and he is the “God of all comfort”.  Have a blessed day in the Lord!!!

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