In this season of thanksgiving, what are you thankful for right now? Can you make a list, even a short one, of the ways God has blessed you this year or in the past? As I lead a class on the book of James, I am realizing how thankful I am for the trials I have been through. It is so much easier to understand and empathize with others when you have been through difficulties. It is also so much easier to trust God to care for us when we have seen His faithfulness in the past.
James reminds us in James 1:2 to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” It might seem crazy in the midst of hard times to even understand the word “joy,” but we can. When we remember joy is dependent on Who Jesus is rather than who we are or the circumstance we are in, we can grasp that joy a little bit more easily. If the source of our joy is Jesus and how much He loves us, we can remain joyful in every circumstance. This is certainly easier said than done, but it does give us great perspective.
Sometimes it’s even harder to trust and cling to God when we are feeling secure and confident in our earthly needs. If we are comfortable, it is very tempting to think we have accomplished it ourselves. We think we can just rely on our own strength, and we will be just fine. These are the moments we must remember we are only where we are by the grace of God. And we must remember that when we have extra, God has called us to share and give abundantly to others. He does not bless us so we can keep it all to ourselves. The blessings, whether they are tangible or not, need to be shared with those around us. Are you grateful for something God has given you? Share that thankfulness with those around you.
Looking back on all of the places we have lived, I can point to very specific things that I am so very grateful God showed me. While we were in Iowa, and I was missing the mountains, forests, and ocean, God opened my eyes to the beauty in the glorious green of corn fields and soy fields. He reminded me of the wonder of snow as I saw it through our daughters’ eyes. Blessings abound and thankfulness overflows in our hearts when we ask God to reveal to us how He is working in our lives. Are you having a hard time finding anything to be thankful for right now? Have things hit you one on top of another, and you can’t seem to keep your head above water? In those moments, please remember Peter’s words to Jesus in Matthew 14:30 as he started to sink, “Lord, save me!” And remember that Jesus immediately reached out His hand to rescue him (v. 31). All we have to do is reach up and grab that outstretched hand. It is always there waiting for us when we look up.
In our darkest moments, it is easy to feel alone. When we are most frustrated, we think no one else will understand. But you are never alone. Jesus is always standing there with His hand open, waiting for you to take it. There are also many of us in the church who have experienced similar things to what you may be going through. We are here to support and love you, too. If you have had a negative experience with church people, I would like to apologize for all of us. We are not perfect, we are all struggling, and, unfortunately, some of us forget that Jesus has called us to love. Just love. And you are loved. Imperfectly by humans, but perfectly and abundantly by the Creator of the universe. With good reason these words are repeated in the Bible over and over: “Give thanks for the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.”