“When you approach Me with thanksgiving, the Light of My Presence pours into you, transforming you through and through. Walk in the Light with Me by practicing the discipline of thanksgiving.”
Jesus Calling, April 6
A few years ago, when I finished speaking at a ladies’ retreat, a dear woman approached me with tears in her eyes. I could tell by the sweet smile shining through her tears that she wanted to share something from her heart.
“I could relate to your stories about your daughter’s illness.” She looked down for a moment and then began again. “I have recently been declared cancer-free. Last summer, the sun was shining beautifully through my bedroom window, but I was in the worst pain I’d ever experienced. My throat was on fire from the cancer treatments, and the pain medication didn’t seem to be working. For a couple hours, I rested on the bed asking God to take away the pain. I begged Him to spare me from the suffering.”
I could relate. Curious to hear more, I looked into her eyes, willing her to go on.
“But in the middle of my suffering, I believe the Holy Spirit nudged my heart to think of others. I started to pray for all my family members, naming them one by one and interceding to God on their behalf. I listed my neighbors and their needs. I thought of my church family, my small group, and I just continued to ask the Lord to work in the lives of others. I immersed myself in thoughts of praying to God and asking for His hand to help others. I thanked Him for doing so, and my heart swelled with joy.
“Then all the sudden, I realized, I’m not in pain anymore.
“The fire in my throat was gone, and in its place, I felt a peace beyond description. I believe the Lord took away my pain because I overcame the desire to be self-focused. Instead, I thought of others and gave thanks.”
She searched my face to see if I would believe her story. It was like her eyes were asking me, “Do you really think peace can replace pain when we lift thanksgiving to God?”
I smiled back at her through my own tears.
“Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! Let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare His works with rejoicing.” Psalm 107:21–22
The Bible explains that giving thanks through pain is a sacrifice. And when we sacrifice to the Lord and offer Him thanksgiving, even through difficult situations, our God is praised! When we purposefully shift our focus from our pain and suffering to how God is working in us and through us, then He reveals His strength in our weaknesses.
I will never forget this woman’s precious story of giving thanks through the pain. Was it a sacrifice? Yes, because she had to choose to avoid thinking only of her own needs. She had to choose to focus not on the pain, but on how she could help someone else by praying for them. She chose to give thanks for the opportunity to intercede for others, and the joy of the Lord filled her heart.
At the time the woman approached me, my daughter was still suffering with her terminal disease and hadn’t gone on to her heavenly home. I was thankful, most definitely, for pain medication. I was thankful we had assistance in our home and medical professionals who came to visit her. But beyond the thanks for God’s gifts, I was learning to offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving.
Today I long to give thanks to the Lord because He is good, and His mercy endures forever. I long to see the works He is doing, even as I mourn the loss of my daughter. But even when I can’t see anything through my tears, I still want to focus on God’s character and thank Him for His promises and for who He is—the God of eternity who will redeem all suffering because He overcame death itself.
My daughter’s pain didn’t last forever. The pain in our hearts won’t last forever. We can give thanks through the pain because it is temporary. We give thanks through the pain because God is with us now and He is eternal.
“Whenever you’re struggling spiritually or emotionally, pause and check your “thankfulness gauge.” If the reading is low, ask Me to help you increase your level of gratefulness. Search for reasons to thank Me; jot them down if you like. Your perspective will gradually shift from focusing on all that is wrong to rejoicing in things that are right.”
Jesus Always, November 21
Jesus, prompt our hearts through your Spirit. May we give thanks through pain and suffering and the heartache of this world, because we know that we are here briefly. When the pain pushes us beyond what we can bear, teach us to shift our focus to Your promises. Help us rely on your strength in the pain and find actions to take on behalf of others. We offer our thanks through the pain because we know that you are God and you are good. Though weeping may last for a night, joy will come in the morning. Amen.
Rachel Wojo is the author of One More Step: Finding Strength When You Feel Like Giving Up. Her popular daily Bible reading plans on rachelwojo.com have reached over 5 million people. Rachel and the love of her life, Matt, run to the rhythm of 6 children in Columbus, OH.