The importance of gratitude in the midst of pain
12 months ago Triangle 0
Written by: Samantha Burgess, assistant editor
It’s not fair. My job is miserable and overwhelming, I have way too many assignments and extracurriculars, my parents are struggling. How am I supposed to deal with this, God?
This was my attitude up until a few weeks ago. I was overwhelmed and, admittedly, ungrateful. But as Christians, I realized that we are called in Psalm 136:1 to “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his love endures forever.” So, how, as a Christian who is hurting, do you learn to show God gratitude?
It’s not easy. But, I have recently been learning through my own trials what it means to be grateful before the Lord. This semester has been both the worst and the best of my college experience. In a few short months my grandfather went into a nursing home, contracted Alzheimer’s and then passed away. During this time, I was juggling a heavy school load and a part time job. I wasn’t able to put the effort I need into my assignments and I went many nights without enough sleep. My parents worried about whether or not we would finally be able to buy a new house and sell the one we’d lived in for twenty years. It was hard for my family and me not to be anxious and overwhelmed. It grew to the point where I had to quit my job because I was slipping up in school and overwhelmed in my personal life.
However, looking at the life of the Apostle Paul, my temporary struggles pale in comparison to the Apostle’s own tribulations.
Evangelist Billy Graham said of Paul, “Separated from friends, unjustly accused, brutally treated—if ever a person had a right to complain, it was this man, languishing almost forgotten in a harsh Roman prison. But instead of complaints, his lips rang with words of praise and thanksgiving!”
We see many accounts in 1 Corinthians where Paul is stoned, starved and sleepless. He is wrongly imprisoned and abandoned by his friends (2 Timothy 1:15). During his imprisonment in Rome, Paul writes in Ephesians 5:19-20 to make music in your heart and give thanks to the Lord in everything.
Paul also writes in 2 Corinthians 1:8-11, “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.”
There are countless times in which the Apostle despairs for his life and wishes to be with Christ, yet Paul still found it within himself to give praise to God because he knew Him to be good.
My grandfather’s passing was an end to one stage of life, but it soon turned into a new beginning for my parents and I. In one fell sweep, God aligned the circumstances of our life for the better. Papaw had left us with his house and a lump sum of money. Of course, we still grieved Papaw’s loss, but we know that, as a believer, he’s in heaven now. And I learned once again that God provides. It is because of this provision that I was able to have hope and gratitude.
Looking back on this season of my life, I realize all I have and had to be grateful for. This semester I was able to grow closer to old friends and make new ones. I finally feel as if I have a strong support system on campus, something that I can be grateful for. I can be thankful for the fact that my grandfather is no longer in pain, and instead sits with God in Heaven, where I will join him one day. I can find gratitude in my parents, who are loving and supportive enough to tell me to take a break from work so that I can focus on school. I can be thankful that we have come across financial support and a new house. Most importantly, I can give this gratitude to God, because he is the provider of all of these things. He is the God who sent his son to die for our sins and who loves us without conditions. He is the one who we serve and therefore, ultimately owe our thanks to. Even when we are hurting, we should find security and gratitude in knowing God is with us forever. I hope that in the next trial I face, I am able to face it with the steadfast faith and gratitude that the Apostle Paul exhibited.