April 3, 2020

Being Thankful in Times of Trial

There’s a picture in our kitchen that I don’t pay much attention to most of the time. It says: “There is always something to be thankful for.” It’s just sort of ‘there’. However, with all that has happened over the past couple of weeks, it got me thinking.

When Uncertainty Overwhelms

In times like this, it’d be easy to become depressed, dwelling on all the things we aren’t able to do at the moment—the school run, meeting with friends and family, worshipping with our fellow brothers and sisters, or even going to the movies.

It’d be easy to get stressed and start to panic about all sorts of things: Will my 16-year-old be able to sit her exams? Will I lose my job? What will happen if someone in my house gets corona? How am I going to cope with having these kids around 24/7? Will I be able to move house now? What if the shops run out of food? Will I get my money back on the flights that I had booked for a holiday?

I’m not saying these aren’t legitimate worries. They are. However, as believers—in spite of everything that is going on in the world—we can always find things to be thankful for. Here are several.

1. We can be thankful that our God is in total control.

He hasn’t been surprised by this pandemic. The whole of the human race has been shocked to a certain extent. But not the Almighty Creator and Sustainer of the universe. He knew this would happen. He knows how long it will last. He knows how long it will take everything to return to ‘normal.’ “For the kingdom is the Lord’s and he rules over the nations.” (Ps. 22:28)

2. We can be thankful that we are saved.

We know the inner peace that this brings. In Christ, we can have hope, not only for our eternal destiny, but also for today. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (1 Pet. 1:3)

3. We can be thankful for technology.

Modern technology enables us to keep in touch with our family, friends, and church family. Seeing multiple faces on a Zoom or Skype call brings a smile to my face and joy to my heart.

Last week, I started doing an online course with some other pastor’s wives. These wives are all living and working in Africa. They shared some of the unique obstacles they are facing amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Most of the people in their churches live hand to mouth, and lots of them have lost their jobs because the places they are working have had to close. So they are thinking about how they can best support these families with food and other needs.

But also, most of them now won’t have the luxury of being able to pay for data on their phones/tablets. So doing things like online prayer meetings, Bible studies, or church services just isn’t an option for them. Most people in the West wouldn’t ever think that having 4G or unlimited data is a luxury, but for our African brothers and sisters, it really is. How easily do we take something like this for granted?

4. We can be thankful that we have running water and electricity.

Again, there are lots of people in the world who don’t have even these basic needs right now. Don’t take it for granted that you can turn on the lights with the flick of a switch, or turn on the tap and enjoy fresh, cool water.

5. We can be thankful for the abundance of resources at our disposal.

There have been loads of ideas put online recently to help keep ourselves and our children active and occupied—websites to go to, activities to do, etc. Additionally, just take a look around the room you are sitting in at the moment. Have a look at all the material things you have. Give thanks to God for all of them, no matter how small they may appear to be. He is the one who has provided each and every gift for you.

6. We can give thanks that we are still able to get the food and medicines we need.

Our shops still have supplies for us. The doctor’s surgeries and pharmacies are still open and functioning.

7. We can give thanks that we now have time that we wouldn’t ordinarily have.

How much time have you gained by not being able to rush about to different places? How are you using this time? Maybe you now have a chance to read that book that’s been sitting on the shelf for ages, get in touch with someone you haven’t spoken to in a while, or start that project you’ve been putting off. Most importantly, we Christians can spend some extra time praying and studying God’s Word. Being forced to slow down can have its advantages. As Ecclesiastes tells us: “There is a time for everything” (Eccl. 3:1).

8. We can give thanks for the gospel opportunities this season is providing.

Many people in our communities are confused, doubting, and wondering what is going to happen. We can offer them the hope of the gospel. We can point them to the One who knows all things—and who sent His Son to rescue us from an enemy far worse than any virus this world has ever known.

In the West, we are in a very privileged position. We often take it for granted, but at times like this, we should use some of the extra time we have to give thanks and praise to the Lord for his goodness to us in so many ways. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17) Let’s also prioritise praying for the places in the world that will suffer acutely because of this pandemic. May God have mercy on us all.

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