Sunday, November 22, 2009

Remaining Thankful in the Worst of Times

If we live long enough here on earth, every single one of us is going to experience difficult times. Some of those are going to overwhelm us, challenging us to the limits of our ability to recover feelings of joy, peace, and thankfulness.

This coming week here in America we will celebrate the holiday of Thanksgiving Day, a day specifically set aside for us all to give thanks for those blessings that we have received in this life. Though it may indeed be difficult, it is important that we remain thankful in the worst of those difficult times.

As this wonderful holiday approaches, I have been reminded recently of a pair of heartening messages, the first taught by Jesus Christ and the second by the apostle Paul: "In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world" and "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

In the first of these statements, Jesus let's all of us know in no uncertain terms that we are indeed going to experience difficult times in this world. We are going to experience physical illness and injury. We are going to experience other people in our lives, at times the very closest and dearest to us, letting us down. We are going to experience death, both of our loved ones and ultimately our own.

But also in no uncertain terms, Jesus declares that He has overcome the world. We have all been promised that if we remain strong in our faith, that one day we too shall overcome the world and join Him in His kingdom in Heaven.


Have you experienced the sudden, tragic death of a loved one, perhaps someone who was your best friend, your partner in life, your husband or wife? Perhaps you have experienced the incredibly tragic pain of losing a child, one whom you raised and taught and played with? Many of us have experienced the loss of a parent, a mom or dad who helped preserve our own deepest feelings of security.

I cannot imagine how those with no faith can deal with these situations and remain sane and functional as human beings. With faith we understand that all is in God's loving hands, and that we are all offered a chance at eternal peace, health, and happiness.

We will all pass on from this earth, that is a fact. Tens of billions of people have lived on this tiny planet over the millenia. Every single one of them has died. That includes our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, his mother, Mary, and every single great or holy secular or religious leader that was ever born.

The great gift that we receive when we have faith in Jesus Christ comes in the knowledge that He died for us. His suffering and death were enormous, painful, and difficult. If you have never done so, watch Mel Gibson's truthful, passionate retelling in "The Passion of the Christ."

Jesus Christ experienced people turning away from Him, from the very Word of God. He experienced His closest friends denying they even knew Him. He experienced physical pain and psychological torture. He experienced public mockery and challenges to His sanity and His soul. And He finally experienced suffering and death on a cross.

He experienced all of this so that we might learn the truth that there is more for us beyond this world. He has promised us that if we follow and believe in Him, that we will join him in eternal peace and joy with God in Heaven. Every one of our friends and family members who has ever passed away has also had this opportunity.

We can be secure that those who have died believing in Him, even should that sincere belief have come in their final days or moments, are with Him now in Heaven, and that we will see them again one day. Also, those who left us as innocents are absolutely together with Him this very moment. It should be our life's primary purpose to ensure that we accept Jesus with faith so that we can indeed join them one day.

In the second statement that I mentioned earlier, Paul implores us to "give thanks in all circumstances" because whatever it is that we are going through, if we truly understand God's love in faith then we understand that we are never, ever alone in our difficulties.

Many of us have been given the gift of family and friends to help us through the difficult times that will inevitably visit us. These people are the ones who will stand by us and stay with us, no matter our troubles. They will be there to offer a shoulder to cry on, arms to wrap around us and comfort us, words to encourage and strengthen us.

But even if we have few friends and family, we are still never alone. Even when your friends and family are not physically there with you, you are still never alone. Even if it is that one person who seemed to always be there for you who has been taken from you, you are still not alone. In every moment of your life, God is there. You only need turn to Him and acknowledge Him.

Paul teaches that it was God's will for you to be thankful in all circumstances, including the worst, most difficult, and most painful. He teaches that it is in Jesus Christ and His teachings and example that we are to find the ability to give that thanks.

No matter how difficult the event, no matter how painful the experience, there are others here on earth who are suffering more right now and who have suffered more in the past. Every one of us is promised that peace, joy, and love with God in eternity if we remain faithful.

As this day and season of Thanksgiving comes to us, we should always remember and be grateful for every good time that has come to us on this earth. We should be thankful for the gift of every good moment that we were ever given with every good person in our lives. But no matter what, most of all we must overcome earthly pain and loss, and remain thankful for what will last forever - God's undying love for us.

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