Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Gratitude: Responses to Difficulty

The times when our hearts are really revealed come when things are difficult. What is our first response when things get hard?

To complain?
To withdraw?
To find an escape?
To blame God?
To blame others?

We all have sinful responses that come naturally to us, and the difficult circumstances squeeze them out the most. Have you ever heard testimonies of missionaries or those who’ve faced incredibly difficult physical strains, persecution, or other immensely challenging situations, but continue with unwavering hope in Christ and gratitude in Him?

And I complain when my schedule gets interrupted.

The apostle Paul’s attitude as he wrote the book of Philippians is a great example of unwavering hope in Christ. Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Paul didn’t say that because it would be a good catch-phrase for sports’ teams or things we want to accomplish. He wrote that in the midst of very challenging physical circumstances. He had faced tremendous persecution and was writing from prison. I think we often miss the depth of Paul's writing when we turn verses like Philippians 4:13 into a slogan for everything. Paul expressed a few verses before, “…I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” Is that your natural response when things don’t go your way?

I'm afraid it's not always mine. 

Paul’s response in Philippians 4 is deeply theological: it’s rooted in His understanding and relationship with God. And yet it’s deeply personal, because his response isn’t something he thought would make a nice statement, he was experiencing it. He knew that God was enough. He grasped what God had saved Him from. And he realized that he could respond in thankfulness no matter what temporary afflictions or troubles came his way.

I pray that God would deepen my understanding of the foundation of my gratitude, that I might respond in thanksgiving no matter what comes my way.

Nancy DeMoss asks,“The choice before you and me today is: Do we only give glory to God for the part of our life that’s going the way we want? Or do we worship Him, trust Him, and give Him thanks, just because He is God—regardless of the dark, painful, incomprehensible places we encounter in our journey?

Giving thanks amidst difficulty isn’t easy. That’s why we need Christ. That’s why our union with Him and our understanding of the gospel is so important. Because gratitude and thankfulness is so much deeper than thinking of the good things God has given us or the blessings we’re experiencing. Because things change, and if our gratitude is based on when life is good, it will falter when we perceive things to be bad. That is why it is essential for our gratitude to be rooted in God. Until we experience everything as loss compared to knowing Christ, it will be hard for us to be truly grateful people.

But when we do experience Christ's redeeming power, we will overflow with thanksgiving!

“I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of Your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and exult in You; I will sing praise to Your Name, O Most High.” Psalm 9:1-2


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