It’s the first week in November – which means that some of you have already started watching Hallmark Christmas movies and drinking your peppermint mochas. I like to hold out until after I finish Thanksgiving dinner. Isn’t there a commandment that says Thou shalt not watch Christmas movies or listen to Christmas music until the day after Thanksgiving? Ha!
Since it’s November, I decided to tackle a tough question:
How can you be thankful even when you aren’t feeling it?
Right now, our world feels like a giant dumpster fire with a side of stinky cheese. When the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 “be thankful in all circumstances” did he know how expensive groceries would be? Did he have any idea of how scary it is to watch images of the war overseas? How can we be thankful when we’re seeing so much going wrong in our country? Perhaps you’re wondering if Paul knew how painful it’s been for you to deal with your family issues, healthy struggles or you’re dreading the holiday season to come.
Yet, what if being thankful when life is hard is exactly what God calls you to do today?
Today, I’m sharing a story of Jesus giving thanks at a time when most of us would question God or be made at God instead. As you read today’s devotional, I pray that you will see God’s heart and most of all, the blessing that God gives when you choose gratitude in hard times.
Here we go:
In Mark 14, Jesus sends out the disciples to gather up preparations for Passover. Since Jesus and the disciples traveled together from town to town, they didn’t have a fully stocked kitchen or pantry to work with. Then, Jesus and the disciples gathered around a table for what Jesus knew would be their final meal together while he was on earth.
As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take it, for this is my body.” And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. And he said to them, “This is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice for many.” -Mark 14:22-23 NLT
Look at the underlined words. Notice Jesus’ actions here. He blessed the bread before he tore it. He gave thanks to God before sharing the wine. The bread and wine symbolized the brokenness and suffering that was to come in Jesus’ life. Yet, he still gave thanks anyway. Jesus even gave thanks while his future betrayer Judas was sitting right at the table with him. Some of you have felt the sharp stab of betrayal or difficult people. Jesus gave thanks right in the middle of it, not waiting until later.
There’s a phrase for when we give thanks to God when it’s hard. In her best-selling book 1000 Gifts, Ann Voscamp identifies Jesus’ act of giving thanks before suffering the “hard eucharisteo” (yoo-khar-is-the-o). This is known as the “hard giving thanks.” This is the place where we thank God for His goodness, love, and grace, even as our circumstances don’t look or feel good to us in the moment. This is where we might be in a hard place, but we do not let ourselves develop bitter or hard hearts.
As one who herself said that she “woke up for years of mornings wanting to die” from her sadness and suffering, Voscamp experienced the following spiritual breakthrough that came from her reflection on Jesus’ words at the Last Supper. Her words inspired me and I hope that they inspire you as well:
Deep chara joy is only found at the table of the eucharisteo – the table of thanksgiving. As long as thanks is possible, then joy is always possible.” (pg 32)
Even at that last supper before he would be crucified, Jesus gave thanks because he knew that none of life’s hardships could steal the joy of what God had waiting for him. Here’s what the writer of Hebrews recorded:
“We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. -Hebrews 12:2 NLT
God doesn’t want you to base your hope, peace, or joy on your circumstances because He knows that this broken world will break your heart. However, God knows that when you look for and call out God’s goodness, love, and mercy in your life, expressing that gratitude for God is what lifts your heart and fills you up – even when life is hard.
Today’s question: Do you need to shift your eyes from your circumstances back toward God? Where can you give thanks for His love, goodness, grace, and mercy in your life?