By Jon Shonebarger

My favorite holiday of the year is Thanksgiving. It is an opportunity to truly reflect on the blessings, bounty and beauty of my life provided by my benevolent God and Savior, Jesus Christ. This holiday always stirs my heart. In humble gratefulness, I praise God from whom all my blessings flow. Thank you Lord! I am genuinely humbled and appreciative. God has been good to me.

There are significant milestones and blessings that we receive that are obvious in our lives during the course of a year. There are those special gifts, material and spiritual, that the Lord has provided and have made a distinct impact on our lives. Those blessings are easy to identify and to be grateful for. Yet, there may have been those moments, failures and heartaches that generate confusion, grief, bitterness or despair. Thankfulness cannot be found in tragedy. Can it? It may have been a difficult year for you and you find it impossible to give thanks. You may wonder what you could possibly be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

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Jon Shonebarger

The wise Apostle Paul taught a profound spiritual principle in his first epistle to the Thessalonians. He stated, “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (I Thessalonians 5:18 KJV). Be thankful for everything? Really?

While we are instructed to give thanks for everything, it is the second half of this verse that gives us the reason. It is because of the sovereignty of Almighty God. God has a plan for you. He has a purpose for every experience in your journey. The Lord has complete control of your time; how long you live, how long a particular season lasts and when new experiences come and go in your lifetime. Complete control by God. Total sovereignty. Providence orders your steps. The question we must ask ourselves is, “Is it well with us?” Can we rest in the confidence that God does ALL things well?

In the course of my ministry I have found good Christian people adversely affected by bad situations. In the course of their journey they have lost sight of the truth that God is still on the throne and that He is still in control. We must remember, God is not slumbering. He has not died. He is not away on vacation. He has not forgotten you nor has He turned a deaf ear to your cry. God is always there! He will never leave you or forsake you. You are not alone. He is going through the tribulation with you. This is His plan. He has a reason. It will surely come to pass.

Trials and tribulations are used by God for three specific reasons. First, they are for you to learn more about Him. Through the hardship, through the valley, through the weakness and the temptations, God shows Himself benevolent and powerful. We get to experience God in new and significant ways. As a result, there is spiritual growth, new depths in our communion with God and encouragement in going deeper in our relationship with God. What a blessing!

The second reason for trials and tribulations is that God enables us to learn more about ourselves. Circumstances do not make a man, they reveal who he already is! I have heard many individuals confess that they never thought they would react as they did in certain situations. God uses these moments to reveal to us who we really are. Our weaknesses, our vulnerabilities, our breaking points and our sin. The revelation of who we really are should prompt us to seek the Lord in humility, repentance and renewal. What a blessing!

The third reason for trials and tribulations is for us to learn about others. Consider three Bible characters. Lot was told by God to flee from Sodom and Gomorrah as the Lord was going to judge those wicked cities. His family was told to not look back. As the fire and brimstone rained down, Lot’s wife looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt. There is every reason to believe that Lot believed his wife would comply with the command of God, but she disobeyed. Certainly Lot learned about the heart of his wife. Another example is Job. Amidst the tragedy and circumstance of Job’s overwhelming losses, his wife told him to curse God and die! Certainly, Job was grieved by her statement. A final example is Peter. He vowed he would never deny the Lord, yet he did so three times before the rooster crowed.

While we never rejoice in the failure of others, gaining insight to their struggles so that we may assist and/or intervene in their lapses is a positive. Also being reminded that except by the grace of God, so go we! That is a blessing!

This Thanksgiving, let us look closely at our lives. The fingerprints of God are there for our detection. Whether it is bounty or leanness, God is there leading, listening and looking. Dear reader that is complete oversight of our lives by the Good Shepherd. Rejoice! Celebrate! Praise His goodness to you. May you have a great holiday and remember, God loves YOU!

Contact Jon Shonebarger at [email protected]