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Nov 24, 2016

Giving Thanks in Good Times and in Bad

Sarah Christmyer

Each year as Thanksgiving approaches and I start to review my blessings, I stumble on this from St. Paul:

“In everything give thanks.”

1 Thessalonians 5:18

Everything? You’ve got to be kidding me.  When things go wrong, I’m supposed to give thanks?  When my husband is laid off and no jobs are in sight? When the mortgage is underwater? When illness strikes and the pain won’t go away?

Paul goes on: We are to give thanks in all situations because “this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

I used to wonder whether that means it’s God’s will for me to give thanks, or that the situation is God’s will for me and it will work for my eventual good. Either way, I’ve learned that it is precisely by giving thanks in the difficult times of our lives, that our hearts are lifted above the situation. Having a thankful heart is not only appropriate in good times, it can help us survive the bad. There’s a powerful example of this at the Yad VaShem Holocaust History Museum in Jerusalem, which I wrote about in Psalms: the School of Prayer:

As you leave [the museum], there is painted on the wall in red and black letters a prayer. The refrain “And praised … be … the Lord” is interrupted by a litany of the names of prison camps:

“And praised. Auschwitz. Be. Magdenek. The LORD. Treblinka. And praised. Buchenwald. Be. Mauthhausen. The LORD. Belzec. And praised. Sobibor. Be. Chelmno. The LORD. Ponary. And praised.…”

… Is the author praising God for prison camps?  Far from it. This prayer/poem isolates those evil camps and plunges them into the midst of the praises, surrounding them in the greater power of God and his good. It is cathartic to read. The longer you read it, the more it strengthens you and gives you hope. Try inserting your own trials in the spaces below, and praying it:  “And praised. __________. Be. ________. The Lord. _______.  Amen.”

God willing, no one reading this will ever have to confront the depth of suffering represented by that poem.  But in the dark patches of your life, think of the Jews and praise the Lord, taking care to give thanks “in everything.”  If they can do it—so can we.

This post first appeared on

Excerpt from Andre Schwartz-Bart, the Land of the Just

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  • Amen! I always begin my daily prayer by giving thanks to God. I learned this passage in the past, when things were not going smoothly. I discovered that, by thanking God for even the negative things, I could also find something small that was good. If I didn’t take the time to seek out SOMETHING good to be thankful for, the little blessings would have been overlooked. A beautiful sunrise. The smile on a loved one’s face. And when I thanked and praised Him when life was bleak, I began to notice that my life was getting better. Well, perhaps not right away, but my attitude certainly changed!

    We had a joyful Thanksgiving with family. One of my favorite traditions is when we take turns naming what we’re thankful for. Starting with the letter A and ending when we get to Z. Even the children gave thoughtful responses. One of my favorites was the 9 year-old who said, “Obstacles… because they make you stronger.” Yes indeed!

    “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

  • Through all my bible teachings and studies with
    the Jesuits, I have always found that even when going through bad times is when
    I knew that Christ was closest to me and was thankful for that, because since I
    didn’t abandon Him, He wouldn’t abandon me. Without Christ, who else would I
    turn to. For He has been a part of me since I was baptized as an infant. My
    parents (God give rest to their souls) instilled in me the life of the other
    sacraments as I grow older to understand what they meant. Building my Catholic
    faith to a point that I knew one day I would be on my own and kept growing my
    Catholic faith. As I married and we began to have children, instilling in the
    children the love of what Jesus had to offer them by the example my wife and I
    practiced with them, the children knew what love of family meant and of trust.
    A special bond was formed with our children that anytime they needed help or
    were in trouble, they could come to us because of that trust. We explained to
    them that God ask for us to do the same to Him and put their trust in Him. We
    also taught them how to be thankful for the littlest of things that they had.
    They saw how thrifty we were with our spending and never did build that big fancy
    house, but we spent it on what needs the boys had to have. When you live on a
    farm, you make do without a lot of things, that with a little imagination to
    fix things and make things work. Working with my Father-in-law, I learned that
    if you buy cheap, you get cheap. So we would save our money and buy the best of
    a certain thing and when you take good care of it, it will last longer than
    expected. That’s something to be very thankful of your equipment is like your
    soul. One does not feed your soul of cheap weak faith that puts God to the
    test, but on strong solid acts of faith that are true and does not put God to
    the test. From
    the time of Adam and Eve, God asked of only one thing of them that He still
    asks of us today and that is to put your trust in Him alone. I believe that’s
    all the thanks He is looking for.

  • Thank you for this post and the comments. I am thankful for the difficulties in my life. It is then when I feel most close and dependent on our Lord Jesus Christ. I can’t say I love the difficulties themselves though. I admit I am more often a lover of comfort and pleasure than I am of our Lord. Thank you Jesus for the sufferings in my life, small as they are, that wake me from my lethargy to be united to you.

  • Howdy,

    Does God do bad – perhaps opportunity to follow prayer of Saint Francis.

    May you sleep with angels,,


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