Being Thankful When it’s Hard and You Don’t Know What’s Ahead
I find myself on the cusp of the next phase in life. What's coming is fuzzy. The details aren't worked out. Should I be thanking God for that?
Lists of gratitude abound this time of year. Some people post one thing they’re thankful for every day on social media. Some, like me, write a list on Thanksgiving morning, before the cooking, feasting and family festivities begin. Others go around the table citing blessings before digging into the feast.
There’s usually pattern in these lists, at least for me. They contain things already worked out.
I’m thankful for the raise I finally got at work after a season of financial hardship.
Thankful for the new friends I made after a season of loneliness.
For finally recovering from that horrible illness.
And so it goes.
Obviously, we should give thanks for those things! But how often do we give thanks for things that haven’t worked out yet? For seasons of difficulty and uncertainty?
Trip to the Mailbox
One of my first lessons in thanking God through difficulty came sophomore year in college. At the time I worked a couple part-time jobs to pay for my own groceries, gas and some bills. I regularly scraped the bottom of my bank account. This hardly made me unique as a student. Still, you never get over the dread of realizing you can’t drive to church because you can’t afford gas, or can’t buy breakfast for a week because you’re out of money.
One day I was in such a bind. I went to check my mailbox, probably as a distraction from the dozens of worries raging in my head. In the mail was a card from a fellow church member back home. It contained a simple note of encouragement and a $20 bill. Just enough to get me through.
Even though I don’t remember the details of what tests, papers or payments were looming ahead, I know it was hard and I was worried. But it was the difficulty and uncertainty that made that blessing so sweet when it came.
I’m thankful for that week. Now. At the time, I was hardly praising God for my empty wallet. The thanks came after my trip to the mailbox. But they should have come before. If I had trusted God, I would have known that the temporary trial would only serve to bring me closer to him and strengthen my faith, as it did.
Thanking Him Now
You’d think I’d know better today, years later. But that lesson is still hard to apply.
In this season, I find myself on the cusp of the next phase in life. What’s coming is fuzzy. The details aren’t worked out. I don’t have a firm plan or a timeline. In fact, I have a lot of questions that aren’t being answered as quickly as I’d like, and some days, I want to panic.
What should I be doing instead? Thanking God, according to my own testimony. For what, though? The difficulty of right now? Uncertainty about the future? As I’m learning once again, the answer is yes.
So this Thanksgiving, like all the others, I’ll open my diary and scrawl the things I’m thankful for. At some point during the day, relatives might take turns giving thanks for our blessings. But instead of listing only the things I wanted to happen, or the things that are already neatly resolved, I’ll give thanks for right now. The struggles. The uncertainty.
Because I know a time will come when I will look back in awe at the perfection of God’s plan, and I’ll wish I’d thanked him sooner.