The Power of Thanksgiving when Life is Hard | Thanksgiving Series
I was sipping my favorite Dunkin coffee in my seat at church on a Sunday morning. As worship began we rose to our feet and I thought to myself, I don't feel like worshipping today. The week had been full of hard days and bad news. I was going through it, and I felt spiritually exhausted. As the chorus of the song began, I recognized the man in front of me.
He had been diagnosed with a terminal illness a few months ago. His body was failing him before his eyes. Before the worship band even began the next song, both of his arms, shaky and weak, were lifted and he was shouting for everyone to hear, "great are you Lord! You are great!"
Immediately I felt convicted and in awe of this man. His life was certainly not what he had hoped for, yet there he was, worshipping Jesus louder than anyone else in the room.
It didn't matter if there was music or not, he wasn't going to miss out on a chance to praise God.
In the book of Psalms, there are multiple different kinds of Psalms. Over one third of the book is full of Psalms of lament. I don't think this is a coincidence (nothing in scripture is!) but I think it's because there is a unique power to praise and thanksgiving when life is hard.
Psalm 22 is one of my favorite psalms of lament, beginning with David's relatable cry, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Psalm 22:1)
As the Psalm continues, David shifts from expressing his deep pain to praising God. There is a shift we can see recorded in the Psalms that always happens when someone chooses to go to God with their hardships.
In the beginning of this psalm he states, "I cry out by day, but you do not answer," then by the end he writes, "future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it!"
Something changes when we choose to praise God, even when life is hard.
First, the focus is David and his promises. He tells God about what people are saying about him, how people are judging him, and he even says he feels like a worm instead of a man. That's a hard season of life to be in.
But then, as he enters into this moment with God, he says, "You are my strength." There is a change in focus that happens. David acknowledges his circumstances, then acknowledges who God is.
The character of God defines the reality of our circumstances. We can be in a hard season of life, but God is the One who gets the final say. When we go to talk to God about it, it will change how we feel about our circumstances because we will proclaim with David, "God is my strength."
If you feel like life is hard today, start with having a conversation with God. Maybe even write down your own psalm.
How do your circumstances make you feel?
What are people saying about you?
Then, what does God say about your circumstances?
What is true of Him even in the midst of those circumstances?
Maybe, you'll experience the power of thanksgiving when life is hard.