We just celebrated a special day set aside for Thanksgiving. It’s a special time to pause from all that is going on around us to concentrate on being thankful.
Unfortunately, most people have made it into a day to concentrate on celebrating by over-eating. But in reality, it was meant to be a day to celebrate being thankful to God for all we have —which includes food. Too often, we run past our blessings and forget to be thankful.
A while back I read an article on the Save the Marriage.com web site that we’d like for you to consider on being thankful in marriage.
Concerning Thanksgiving in Marriage, the author wrote:
“It is a day to go against our natural instincts. Most people do not spend their days being thankful. We are much more likely to be critical, feel slighted, and seek ways of getting more.”
“Marriages tend to suffer when we spend our time thinking about what we don’t have. When we compare our spouse to someone else, or focus on the weaknesses our our relationship, or find all that makes us unhappy, we move in that direction.
“There is an endless list of people to whom we can compare our spouse. There is also a nearly infinite list of weaknesses in a relationship. But for today, just today, change the flow. Focus on what you are thankful for. What about the relationship do you cherish? What about your spouse do you treasure? If your answer is ‘nothing,’ you are not looking fairly or deeply.
“When we focus on what we are thankful for, a magical thing happens [although we believe it is more of a spiritual thing] —we find more things for which to be thankful! We turn off the critical switch in our brain for just an instant. For a split second, we exist in an area of appreciation. And our task is to expand that appreciation into more and longer moments. Happy Thanksgiving wherever you are! I hope you find a treasure in your life, and cherish it today!”
The Lord is Near
We’re reminded of what God tells us in the Bible in Philippians 4:4-7,
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.“
We acknowledge that, “Thanksgiving in Marriage” can be a tough subject for many men and women to consider. This is especially true when they see little on the surface to appreciate about their spouse. However, that doesn’t make it any the less important.
We are told throughout the Bible to give thanks to the Lord for the many ways He provides for, and blesses us. Even in the darkest of situations, eventually we can find pinpoints of “Light.” We can also find things to be thankful for as God redeems that, which could have destroyed us.
Gaining a Positive Attitude
I remember reading an article a number of years ago that Dr Gary Smalley. He had written about “Gaining a Positive Attitude.” He encouraged us to be thankful even for that, which hurts immensely. In it, he told of a time when he was counseling a lady who had been horribly attacked years earlier. I remember the article well because he said something to her that would seem to be shocking and insensitive. He said,
“I’m going to ask you a very difficult question based on two Scriptures —1 Thessalonians 5:18. (“Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.“) In Romans 2:28 we are told, “For we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called together according to his purpose.“). Do you think that you could thank God that this happened to you?”
Of course this woman was horrified that he would even think of asking her such a thing! But then he said,
“I’m not asking you to be ‘thankful’ that it was a terrible experience. I’m asking you to be willing to say, ‘Thank you God, for that attack because I know You can turn it into good. I just can’t see the good right now.'”
At first the woman couldn’t see where he was coming from. It seemed heartless for him to propose such a thing. But as they looked at different aspects of her past experiences, some things came to light that she could see as positive. One of them was that her painful past helped her to better empathize with the pain of others. She had ministry opportunities that she may never have had otherwise.
We’ve Seen It Too
I’ve seen the same thing occur in my own life. I’m sure that Marriage Missions wouldn’t have come about if Steve and I hadn’t experienced having a very troubled relationship in years past. Because of it we’re driven to help others in their marriages.
I’m also sure that if I had not been hurt in many traumatic ways earlier in my life, I wouldn’t be as sensitive to the needs of others. Steve has walked through many painful times in his life as well. He acknowledges they have made him into a more caring and compassionate human being. God has worked to redeem the pain we have experienced. He has made alive as we are told in 2 Corinthians 1:3-5:
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.“
God Doesn’t Waste Pain
As horrible as it is to suffer, somehow God does not waste our pain. He brings it together in different ways (when we don’t stand in the way), to minister to others who are suffering in the same way.
So as we think about Thanksgiving in Marriage, we ask you a question that author Gary Thomas challenged us with:
“Could it be that the part of your marriage you regret or resent the most —that which you’ve wanted to hide or forget is the very thing God wants to USE as YOUR MINISTRY to help and encourage others sharing the same struggle?”
Can you look at your painful times and offer them as a sacrifice to God? Ask God to redeem the hurt that you have experienced to help others who are struggling in the same way?
Or maybe you aren’t to that point yet. Then ask God to bring someone your way who is emotionally and/or spiritually healthier than you. We’re talking about someone who can help to infuse hope into your heart. This should be someone of the same sex (so your marriage is not compromised any further). They may not be able to change your situation, but perhaps they can help to ease your human aloneness. Eventually you may become strong enough to become that person for someone else. Keep praying and looking.
The Lord said,
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light“ (Matthew 11:28-30).
Keep in mind: “The Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth“ (Psalm 145:18).
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight“ (Proverbs 3:5-6).
“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spread everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2:14-15).
Cindy and Steve Wright
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