This is the season of thankfulness. Every year the Facebook community participates in The Thankful 30, usually during the month of November. This challenge consists of showing gratitude for the blessings in life. I believe the rule is to post one point of gratitude every day for thirty days. I enjoy these posts, more so at the onset.
Most of the posts, at the beginning of the month, include thankfulness for God, kids, spouse, parents, pets, job, house, and church. All of which could be wrapped up in two or three days by combining like things. One thankful post could be for family, which includes, kids, spouse, parents, and pets. But in the spirit of the challenge it’s one thing each day, so kids, spouse, parents, and pets get stretched out over four days. But even when stretching like things out over a period of days it is still hard to come up with 30 unique and positive things to be thankful for.
It is toward the end of the month the posts start to lack. It becomes more and more apparent that some folks find it difficult to share 30 positive things to be thankful for. During the last few days of this exercise, many will post of their thankfulness for running water, electricity, and even coffee. Not that we shouldn’t be thankful for these things, we absolutely should, there are many people that do not have these luxuries. It’s not that the posts lack true heartfelt thankfulness, they don’t. It’s not that these posts lack personal creativity, they don’t. What I mean is that the exercise as a whole is lacking. It lacks the personal stories. It lacks the lessons that were learned from struggles. It lacks faith shared, hope endured, miracles witnessed, it lacks the negative and the struggles.
Most of us like to relish on the things in our lives that bring us comfort, happiness, and are overwhelmingly positive and we should focus on these things. But as we reflect on our lives, as I think this exercise asks us to do, we should also think about and be thankful for the trials that we have endured and overcome. We should also be thankful for the little inconveniences of life that just bog us down on a daily basis. I don’t often see folks share their gratitude for the negatives in life.
We know that when we are struggling we have a hard time seeing beyond our circumstance. This is also true when things are good. Most of the time we can’t see past our negative circumstance, but sometimes we are not able to see past our positive circumstance either. We forget that the positive only comes after the negative. Are you thankful for your job? What got you to where you are now? Did you move straight from college to your dream job or were there struggles along the way. Shouldn’t we be thankful for the struggles that paved the way to where we are now? What about your family? Was there a windy road that led you to find your spouse? What about kids? We are thankful for our spouse and our children but has the road been paved with rose pedals sans the thorns or did you have to endure some thorns along the way to get to where you are now?
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (Jas 1:2-4)
We all go through trials, some folks don’t want to talk about them, especially if they are ongoing and will feel judgment if they share. Some want to forget about them as soon as the hard time is past. They look forward to brighter days, and do not dwell on the negatives from the past. This is all fine. However, we are all given a cross to bear, sometimes it is great, and sometimes it is small. But when we share the trials of our life, we teach, encourage, and inspire others. Some of the greatest charities, greatest accomplishments, books, movies, and songs have been founded because someone struggled.
Everyone should read “The Hiding Place” by Corrie Ten Boom, at least once in their life.
When I was quite young I read, “The Hiding Place,” a beautiful biography of Corrie Ten Boom and her family during the occupation of Holland during WWII. The Ten Boom family; Corrie, her sister Betsy, and their 80 year old father, were sentenced to a German concentration camp for hiding their Jewish neighbors and friends. Even during this dark time Corrie and her sister had many things to be thankful for, they could have easily participated in the thankful 30. But it may have looked a little different than our posts do today. Throughout the book Corrie shares her thankfulness for many things that we would consider negative. But because she and her sister were able to look past their circumstance they were able to give thanks in the negative, because they continually had hope in the positive.
On day one the sisters might have posted their thankfulness that they were not separated to different camps. That was positive for sure.
On day two they would have rejoiced that their aged father passed peacefully after only ten days of imprisonment. This sounds like a negative but they were still thankful. Why? The sisters knew that the aged were used as test subjects and abused. Their father never had to endure torture.
On day three they would post thankfulness that Betsy fell very ill on the day they arrived at camp. That is a negative. Are we ever thankful for a stomach virus?
It was because of Betsy’s illness that they were able to conceal and retain a small bible and a worn sweater. Both items they attributed to saving lives. The sweater physically, the bible spiritually.
On that first day, while waiting in line to be searched and striped of all their personal belongings, Betsy started to vomit and could barely stand on her own. Corrie was allowed to accompany her sister to the toilet area, where she was able to wrap the bible in the sweater. Betsy was frail and needed this extra bit of warmth during the harsh winter months. The regulation dress that they would soon be assigned was thin and did nothing to keep the winter chill away. Corrie stashed the life saving bundle behind an old moldy bench, where she picked it up later after the German guards performed the invasive body searches and did away with all the women’s personal belongings.
On day four, Corrie might give a long post warning and tell this story of her sister.
Betsy was adamant that she and Corrie give thanks for everything and this included the infestation of fleas that the women had to live with. Corrie initially refused to be thankful for these creatures but eventually, reluctantly gave in to her sister’s urging.
Betsy Ten Boom’s sweet countenance invited the woman of their barracks to gather together for prayer time and bible reading. This time brought comfort to all those who were suffering. Corrie learned later that the reason the women were able to gather undisturbed was because of the fleas. The guards wanted no part of that and let the women alone.
Rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1Thess 5:16-18).
It is hard to see how our trials can lead to a positive or even to see how any good can come from a small negative or the deep sorrows in our lives. Unlike Ms. Ten Boom who was given an answer for the infestation of fleas, sometimes we will never know or understand why we have been given a specific road to walk, but because we believe that all things work together for good, we should give thanks in all situations, including the little inconveniences of everyday life, small trials, and deep sorrows.
“For we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28).
We all have positives to share, and for the most part they are all the same. But the negatives in our lives are all different, we all could learn from what others have endured and how they overcame. We all need inspiration to build our faith, to give us hope, to learn compassion, and humility. We all need encouragement through tough stages of life and to know that others are going through or have gone through trials, struggles, and disappointments and made it through. These are the stories that we need to hear.
If you can see how a negative in your life led to a positive tell the world and give thanks to God for whatever it was. If you are going through a negative and cannot find the good, tell us that too. Let us pray, and grow together. Let us bear each other’s burdens. This will teach us compassion, humility, understanding. Through the sharing of sorrows not only will your own burden be lifted, but you will help to lift others up also.
“No pain that we suffer, no trail that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our character, purifies our hearts expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God. It is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education and will make us more like our Father in heaven.” (Orson F. Whitney).