This week we’re celebrating a special holiday, which is set aside for Thanksgiving. It’s a special time to pause from all that is going on around us to concentrate on being thankful. Sometimes we have to look harder to find things to be thankful for; but they’re there. We’ve found that pausing, looking, and expressing thanks can be so healing and restorative. It’s definitely worth the effort!
Unfortunately, many people make Thanksgiving into a day where they mainly celebrate by over-eating. However, this holiday is designated to be a day to celebrate being thankful to God for all we have. Yes, this does include the blessing of good food. But too often, we run to our blessings and forget to be thankful. Or we focus on what we don’t have, instead of what we do have. And that can cause its own set of problems.
A while back Dr Lee Baucom noticed this matter and wrote the following:
Concerning Thanksgiving in Marriage:
“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 we focus on the weaknesses of our relationship, or we 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.
Here’s the challenge:
“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. [Actually, we believe it is 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 then our task is to expand that appreciation into more and longer moments.” (From the article, “Thanksgiving and Marriage”)
The Lord is Near
We’re reminded of what God tells us 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 spouses to consider. This is especially true when they see little to appreciate about their spouse. However, that doesn’t make it any 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, we can find pinpoints of “Light.” Just look for them.
You can also look at things to be thankful for as God redeems that, which could have destroyed us.
Gaining a Positive Attitude
A number of years ago by Dr Gary Smalley wrote an interesting article on this issue. He titled it, “Gaining a Positive Attitude.” He challenged his readers 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. We remember the article well because he said something to her that seemed to be shocking and insensitive. He wrote:
I’m going to ask you a very difficult question based on two Scriptures. The first scripture is found in 1 Thessalonians 5:18. “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
And then 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.”
My question is—do you think you can 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. Please help me to see it.'”
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 also had ministry opportunities that she may never have had otherwise.
We can relate to this woman in several ways. There’s no doubt that Marriage Missions wouldn’t have come about if we hadn’t experienced a very troubled relationship in years past. And yet God worked good out of it. Because of it we’re driven to help others in their marriages. This is our calling—our life mission. What a privilege it is to participate with Him in this awesome way!
Also, if I (Cindy) had not been hurt in traumatic ways earlier in my life, I wouldn’t be as sensitive to the needs of others. Steve has also walked through many painful times in his life. He knows they have made him into a more caring, compassionate human being. We thank God that He has worked so much good out of the ashes of our painful past. With our whole hearts we proclaim:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)
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 has posed:
“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? And then can you 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. If so, 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.
But Above All—Look to the Lord
“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)
Whatever you do:
“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)
Life can be painful. There’s no doubt!
“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)
Thank you, Jesus, for your mercy, love, and the gift of redemption!
Cindy and Steve Wright
— ADDITIONALLY —
To help you further, we give a lot of personal stories, humor, and more practical tips in our book, 7 ESSENTIALS to Grow Your Marriage. We hope you will pick up a copy for yourself. (It’s available both electronically and in print form.) Plus, it can make a great gift for someone else. It gives you the opportunity to help them grow their marriage. And who doesn’t need that? Just click on the linked title or the picture below:
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