Thanksgiving in Suffering
By Yongyeun Lee
We also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope. (Romans 5:3-4 NRSV)
When we think about thanksgiving, we tend to think about what we value the most. For example, we might list health, finance, family, or workplace. However, if the conditions of our gratitude depend on our environment and situation, we will be full of resentment and complaints rather than appreciation. When we look at the realities of our life, there are actually more unwanted and unexpected things than wanted. We want to meet, eat, and socialize with our beloved family and friends freely without worrying, but there are still many restrictions. Even if we want to come to church to worship and socialize with our friends, we still fear the pandemic. Many families and young people are losing their jobs or having financial difficulties.
Suffering is not the end of hardship. Those who do not believe in God think that hardship is the end of life. However, those who believe in God look at hope in hardship. That hope does not come from people or situations. It is to have hope in God. Many of the great figures of the Bible met God in hardship, gained hope in God through hardship, and eventually became the protagonists of that hope over hardship.
The apostle Paul was encouraging Christians who were oppressed and persecuted in Rome to be joyful with their hopes even in hardship. He told them not to hide or be ashamed of their hardships, but rather to boast. Because hardships are not the end for us, but the beginning of blessings. Difficulties bring us the wisdom and ability to endure. In Christ, hardship brings about a change in our personality and character. Personally and spiritually, we become more mature, deeper, and humbler. Through faith in God, we have the ability to have hope for ourselves to make it through the hardships.
I believe that God’s goodwill is always higher than our thoughts and circumstances. When our attitude in life is in thanksgiving, we discover the grace with which God fills every day. If you have a tax-paying bill, please be thankful for a stable job and home before you complain. If you are worried that your clothes don’t fit you because you gained so much weight during the pandemic, please thank God for having food at home and giving you plenty. For those who have so many clothes to wash in one place, thank God for having so many clothes to wear. If you hear the alarm in the morning, thank God for allowing you to live again today. When the sun sets, and you feel drowsy and tired, thank God for letting you live your day in hard work. In the past year, be thankful for being able to maintain the status quo if you don’t have any fruits. If you had losses, be thankful that you did not lose more. Let us thank God for giving us a chance to succeed again, even if we failed.
Appreciation is like adding to everything, even in the midst of the little things of everyday life. In this season of thanksgiving, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ that you will be a faithful disciple who embraces the heart and vision of Jesus Christ and appreciates the suffering, even in hardship and pain.
Rev. Yongyeun Lee, Ph.D., is pastor of Prospect United Methodist Church in Bristol, Connecticut.