This is a wonderful time of the year. Things are cozier and the warmth of this season gives us time for reflection and thanksgiving. Christians are unique in that we can give thankful testimony for all things, even the hard things in life. Romans 8:28 is a familiar passage, because it is a hopeful reminder that God uses everything in our lives for our good and His glory. This doesn’t make the “hardness” of life any less difficult, but it does give hope that there is an intentional Divine purpose for those things in our lives. As we reflect upon the goodness in our lives with thanksgiving, let us also joyfully reflect upon how God gives us blessings even in the midst of hard times. Here are a few simple reminders from some familiar passages about how we can be thankful for what God gives us during hard times.
Thankful for strengthened faith (James 1:2-4)
This is one of those passages that make little sense to people who have not suffered in life. I remember early in my Christian faith trying to wrap my mind around how trials of every kind should be looked upon with rejoicing. I now stand alongside those who have experienced and seen suffering in the lives of the children of God and “count it all joy” when trials come. Why? Suffering forces me to make value judgments about what is most important to me. What truly gives me comfort, success, and happiness comes to the surface as I deal with the hardness of life. These moments of clarity help me renounce the half-truths of sinful pleasure and reinforce my confidence in the promises of God as I walk in loving obedience through the fog of trials (Hebrews 4:11-16). It puts the reality of my God on display and strengthens my convictions in a manner that could not be matched without walking through hard times.
Thankful for increased character (Romans 5:1-5)
Hard times are most often reflected upon with thanksgiving in hindsight. It takes time for character to develop in our lives. The Lord, as a loving Father, brings hard things in our lives that are perfectly designed to develop the character that we desperately need, even though we often do not recognize the need (Hebrews 12:4-11). It is upon later reflection that we see the areas of our hearts that were challenged and developed, because those hard situations required a level of godly response that otherwise would not have not been present. One simple example is in our relationships. It is part of God’s design that we have family, friends, and co-workers in our lives. When we are able to look back on the challenges in those relationships we can recognize how they exposed, challenged, and developed specific aspects of godly character in our lives. Therefore, we can be thankful for the hard times if we do not view them so much as problems but as opportunities to grow in godly character.
Thankful for persevering hope in the promises of God (II Corinthians 7:16-18)
There is nothing that produces thankfulness for the eternal state like experiencing hard times in this life. Revelation 21:4 is a sweet source of thankful comfort in the midst of hardship. Let’s be honest: when our earthly lives are temporally restful, we decrease our striving for eternal rest. Our hope in the promises fulfilled in Christ gives us an eternal perspective that shapes how we interpret our present situation, and it also reminds us that our suffering will not last forever. Only our Redeemer gives present help and perseverance to walk through hard times with thankfulness and joy. We can, with confidence, be thankful that hard times do not define our lives, and yet God uses all things to work together to fulfill all His promises in Jesus Christ (I Peter 5:10).
Join the Conversation
Reflect upon your experiences this year. What were some specific ways the Lord revealed Himself to you through His word in response to hard times?
In light of this holiday season, and by way of mutual edification and praise to our God, would you share those experiences to others?