In the spirit of the season, I’ve been reading meditations on thankfulness. One Bible verse gave me pause. First Thessalonians 5:16-18 asks us to “give thanks in all circumstances.” That’s a hard one. It’s easy to give thanks for happy things like good health, the birth of a friend’s grandchild, or a job promotion. But where’s the blessing in terminal illness, the death of a loved one, or an unexpected job loss?
Reading that verse led me to poll my family and friends on the subject. Are there really blessings in all circumstances, even the tough times? I was humbled by the responses I received. What I learned: There are blessings in all circumstances—even the hard ones—though it often takes years for the gift of some blessings to be revealed. Finding the good in challenging circumstances allows growth and maturity, removes bitterness, and ultimately strengthens faith.
A friend celebrating sobriety: “I have often thought that I might not have discovered my inner strength had it not been for my mother dying and then my husband dying so young just eight months later. That strength led me to recovery and to becoming an independent woman who is a valuable and productive member of society- at least I like to think so! I might never have ‘grown up’ if not for the tragedies. I've heard that we grow the most as a result of surviving the darkest of times.”
A friend’s daughter, recalling an accident and lengthy hospital stay: “My blessing would be my accident in October of 1991 when I was twelve. I am so thankful that out of that awful day came my life in Colorado! Going to Burn Camp in 1993 shaped my life forever. I met wonderful friends, hiked and rode horses in the Colorado Rockies, became a counselor and helped other kids, had the opportunity to move to Colorado, fell in love; the list goes on and on! I am so thankful for all of the blessings that have come from that day!”
A friend from my book group, on her father’s Alzheimer’s: “Mom needed a break. I agreed to stay with Dad while a sister took mom to South Carolina. On my drive to Kentucky, I wondered if I could handle four days alone with Dad. I made a commitment, but I was reluctant…and afraid. However, the time spent with Dad was meaningful, and I gave thanks many times during that visit. I was thankful for my husband who tended to our home and three children during my absence. I was thankful for the friends who stopped by to talk with Dad. I was thankful that Dad didn’t realize it was me—his daughter— caring for his most intimate needs. If he had known it was me, it would have embarrassed him. I was thankful to have the example of Jesus. When I washed Dad after his many accidents, I pictured Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. I was thankful that I was being required to live the faith I proclaim.”
I wish I had space to tell all the stories. There were blessings found in a burning semi on a lonely stretch of Montana highway. There’s beauty in leukemia. Challenging teens brought a mother closer to God. The sorrow of infertility led to the joy of adoption. There were so many blessings in hard circumstances.
Thanksgiving’s a perfect time to show gratitude and praise for the marvelous complexity of life. Measures of joy and sorrow define each of our journeys. So, this year, next year, or whenever the time is right, may you find silver linings in all the circumstance that have shaped you and formed you into the person you were meant to be.