In the late 1800’s, Horatio Spafford planned to travel to Europe with his wife and four daughters. Having just endured great financial loss because of the Great Chicago Fire, he was delayed in his ability to leave at the same time as his family. Not wanting to deter their original plans, he sent his wife and four daughters ahead of him.
However, as his wife and daughters were crossing the Atlantic, their ship sunk. His wife, Anna, the lone survivor of their family, sent him a telegraph with two words: “Saved alone….” All four of their daughters had drowned.
On his way over to meet his wife, Horatio penned one of the most famous hymns called “It Is Well With My Soul.” The beginning of the hymn says:
When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
It is well, (it is well),
With my soul, (with my soul)
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
Can you imagine the emotions Horatio felt, when sailing through the same spot that he lost all four of his daughters and saying “it is well with my soul”? Horatio’s strong faith and thankful spirit to God were his only source of strength in writing such powerful words!
As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving with our family and friends, it is easy to thank God for the blessings in life such as a working car, a new baby, a raise at work, a bountiful harvest or a clean bill of health.
But what about when troubles and hardships come our way? Do we thank God for the trials that He gives us? Do we encounter a setback and sing to God “it is well with my soul” like Horatio?
Not usually! Let’s be honest, it is downright unnatural to thank God in troublesome times! How do we react when our bank accounts are drained and we are unsure of how we will pay our bills? Our natural inclination is not to thank God!
What about when we are experiencing marital problems or when we are sitting on the side of the road because our car broke down again? Do we thank God when the doctor tells us the cancer has returned? Again, our natural inclination is not to thank God, right?
What is our natural inclination? We shake our fist at God and demand why me, why us, why now? We are no different than the Israelites in the Old Testament. Despite God having delivered them out of Egypt and providing for them along the way, what did they do? They complained and grumbled. What did Moses say in response to all the complaining? He tells the Israelites that their complaints are not against him but against the Lord!
Our family has had several major car problems in the last few months as well as multiple kitchen appliances that have decided to call it quits. To be honest, my first inclination was not to thank God when these things happened! I’m pretty sure I mumbled and grumbled complaints about why us, why now.
When we have an unthankful heart it is the Lord we are complaining against. (The car doesn’t care if we yell at it!) In our thanklessness, we are telling God that we don’t believe that He is in control of ALL things. We are communicating to God that we think we know what’s best for us more so than He does!
While I was thinking about writing this article, my husband and I had a disagreement about something. Heated words were exchanged and I wasn’t too happy with my husband. Later in the day, I went for a walk down to the Mississippi River with my daughter. As I was sitting looking out at the beauty of the river, I started to think about what I was trying to encourage other people to do – to thank God in difficult times.
I actually smiled because I knew what I should do but didn’t want to do! I didn’t want to thank God for the test in our marriage. I stumbled and choked out a muffled “thank you God for this trial.” It was extremely difficult to say out loud!
But the Bible has a lot to say about thankfulness. When things are going well, we praise God and thank Him for it. That’s the easy part. But when things quickly spiral out of our control and problems sprout up, we quickly forget to acknowledge that God is sovereign (in good times as well as bad) and in control of every area of our lives.
Think about David in the Bible. As King Saul sought to kill him, David wrote, “But I have trusted in Your mercy; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me.” (Psalm 13:5-6) David experienced hard times throughout his entire life and yet we read over and over again in the Psalms his thankfulness to God in all things.
Do you share David’s thankful heart? Do you only thank God for the pleasant parts of life or do you thank Him for EVERYTHING?
In Phillipians 4:4-7 it says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
When does it tell us to rejoice in the Lord? ALWAYS! In Colossians 3:17, it says, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
And of course, we are all familiar with 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Our adversity, as painful as it is, teaches us to glory in our weakness because God’s strength is made perfect in us. Paul writes, “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)
As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving with our loved ones, let us remember to have thankful hearts at all times, in all circumstances. May we rejoice in ALL things because we know our Heavenly Father knows what is best for us! May the hard times we experience make our faith pure as we rely on God for all things!
Have a Blessed Thanksgiving!