After enduring a four-and-a-half-year battle against a rare tumor, expectant is the best word to describe how I felt entering the new year. Filled with hope as 2019 came to an end and the latest tests confirmed my tumor remained at bay, my heart soared at the possibility of what the year might hold.
I gazed into 2020 with starry eyes as long-held dreams were once again within reach. Then Deja Vue hit. The unexpected crashed not just into my life but all our lives. As COVID began to fill up newsfeeds, the world collectively grappled with an unknown future. While the circumstances were different, the feelings in the aftershock of what was to come were familiar to those I had endured throughout my health battle.
Fear and uncertainty, worry and frustration welled up inside of me. These emotions—recognizable in so many ways, yet being rediscovered anew. As the shock of the unexpected settled once again, I knew the days ahead would require a shift towards a new normal.
As I sat with the reality of the present—one I could not wish away—I paused to reflect and remember all that God had seen me through as I navigated the unknown.
- What had been the stronghold that helped me navigate the past?
- Where did I find solace in the storm?
- What did I know to be true for the days ahead? What could I actually control?
Among the hard-won lessons I had learned, this I remembered: be thankful in all circumstances.
While surrounded by prison walls, Paul wrote,
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV).
A few years before, as my tumor rapidly grew, treatments kept failing, and the function of my left leg became increasingly impaired, giving thanks felt entirely unrealistic. But those words compelled me into action as I found the courage to give thanks in the middle of messy circumstances.
The courage to give thanks shifted my perspective. Instead of being frustrated by the crutches that slowed me down, I saw them as a tool that helped me get from place to place. Instead of being angry at my doctors, I recognized how their lack of a plan led me to find a new team of caregivers—who ultimately helped shrink my tumor.
With time and practice, that biblical command changed my life and continues to as I navigate the world today. Time has revealed that when we make giving thanks a way of life, we begin to see God’s provision in the seemingly impossible situations life hands to us. In giving thanks in all circumstances, we show God our trust is in Him. In return, we begin to identify all the ways He is at work in our lives—something we can easily miss if our eyes aren’t open to see.
Offering thanks and praise amid the storms of life does not diminish the difficulty we face; it doesn’t take away our circumstances. The act of giving thanks simply redirects our gaze toward God and His provision. Remaining thankful when life is hard lets God know that I trust His plans, that I surrender my ways for His. Expressions of thanks help me to remember that He is good—even if life isn’t.
The practice of extending thanks to God in good times and bad has given me the strength to endure as challenging days, weeks, and months continue to linger in my life. As I seek God and make room for praise amid pain—I continue to grow attuned to the ways God is at work in my life.
While it seems there is no end in sight to the challenges we face collectively and individually, may we have the courage to bring our whole selves to God—our grief and sorrow as well as our joy and praise. May our thanks be offered as a sign of our trust in Him. If finding God’s provision in your life is something you desire, I invite you to download a 10-Day Gratitude Challenge I designed to help you seek and find the good—even when life is hard.
May you find courageous thankfulness today,
Bio: MaryBeth is a writer who encourages people to hold onto hope as they encounter unexpected challenges in life. As a rare disease warrior, MaryBeth has found God’s provision in her weakest moments and with it the grace she needs to endure. MaryBeth shares encouragement on Instagram @marybetheiler and at www.marybetheiler.com.
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