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
In a recent church service, Pastor Doug, lead pastor for Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale
, reminded us that God often uses disappointment and crises to work out His plan for our lives, and that we have an ‘untouchable’
hope of heaven in our future. Those truths make me very grateful to be a part of God’s sovereign plan for humanity. But if I’m being honest, it’s sometimes very hard to be full of praise and thanksgiving when we’re going through tough stuff. Yet that’s what God asks us to do. Why?
According to research, having a spirit of thankfulness “improves our immune system, lowers our risk for mental health issues, improves our ability to cope with stress, and helps us exercise more and eat healthier diets.”
A recent Advent Health
blog stressed the importance of gratitude to our overall health. According to research, having a spirit of thankfulness “improves our immune system, lowers our risk for mental health issues, improves our ability to cope with stress, and helps us exercise more and eat healthier diets.”
Once again, science reinforces a spiritual truth that God desires His people to put into practice. But His reasons for asking his children to be thankful far surpass any physical and mental health benefits. The very best way we can demonstrate our faith and trust in our sovereign Creator is to practice gratitude for who He is and what He has done in our lives; no matter what the circumstances.
practice gratitude for who He is and what He has done in our lives; no matter what the circumstances.
Like me, you have probably faced a circumstance or two for which you feel totally ill-equipped to thank God. I remember one year in particular that it seemed like nothing was going our way. I was working at a Christian school in Dana Point, California, making plans to go back to school to be able to oversee their new preschool program when I found out I was pregnant. That meant I would need to quit my job and put aside my plans for school. When I went home to have our son, we had to pull our 9 and 12-year-old girls out of the Christian school and put them in public schools, as we couldn’t afford to send them if I wasn’t working. That was a very hard decision for us to make, but a necessary one because of finances.
Exactly one month after our son was born, a firestorm raged through Laguna Beach, destroying 333 homes in our immediate neighborhood. Because my husband was working in Newport Beach, which was on the other side of the firestorm, he couldn’t get to us to help. Our two girls and I, along with our newborn son, had to flee the neighborhood suddenly with what little I could throw in the car at the last minute, not knowing if we’d have a home to go back to.
We ended up on the doorstep of some good friends from our church where we stayed several weeks until we could find another place to live. Those first few nights, as I sat in our good friends’ home, I felt hopeless and helpless. The home we were renting was too damaged to be able to return; looters swept through the neighborhood and stole much of our belongings soon after the fire, our neighborhood looked like a war zone, and both of our girls’ public schools had suffered major damage and couldn’t reopen for a while. I was an emotional new mother who was now homeless. I cried, we prayed, and my husband and I gained a strangely supernatural peace through the next weeks while we waited. And then, God began to answer our prayers in an amazing way.
And then, God began to answer our prayers in an amazing way.
The principal of the Christian school we had just left called us and invited our girls back to school. Tuition was fully covered by someone who knew of our plight. The French teacher at the same school had a father who “just happened” to be in Europe for a few years and had an empty condominium in Dana Point that was available — free of charge at first, then we paid a nominal monthly rent as we got back on our feet. And best of all, it overlooked the stunningly beautiful Dana Point Harbor and the Pacific Ocean.
What was seemingly the worst day of our lives turned out to be a huge blessing for the next few years.
What was seemingly the worst day of our lives turned out to be a huge blessing for the next few years. Every time I looked out over the ocean from the deck of that condo, I relived God’s goodness in the midst of our loss and suffering, and thanked Him for His provision for our family. That year stands out as a clear confirmation of Romans 5:8: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him; who have been called according to His purpose.
We don’t always know how or when God is going to take care of us, but one thing we do know is that He promises to take care of us. That truth allows us to give thanks even when we don’t feel like it and when we can’t see the outcome of our trial. He is faithful, He is sovereign, and He is worthy to be praised.
He is faithful, He is sovereign, and He is worthy to be praised.
The Lord is my strength and my shield; in Him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to Him. -Psalm 28:7
Jan Lashbrook is the Early Childhood Program Director at Calvary Christian Academy. She and her husband are “empty-nesters,” having raised three children who are all grown and married. Their youngest attended CCA for 12 years, graduating in 2012.