I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. Psalm 16:7
For the person who realizes that the circumstances of life are never bigger than God, there is a short‑cut to victory. It is one of the few shortcuts that you ever experience in life that can save you a lot of sweat and pain. It is learning the secret of praise and thanksgiving. Thankful for what? For the fact that I feel so low I'm looking up to see bottom? Thankful that my job played out on me, thankful that my husband of 18 years left me for another woman? Thankful that there aren't many jobs available for folks at my age?
Before I presume to be so foolhardy as to say something that will cause your distress to be alleviated, let's take a moment and look at the paradox of giving thanks in time of difficulty. First: The New Testament suggests that thanksgiving and praise are matters of your will, not your emotions. When trouble leads to discouragement and discouragement to depression, the last thing that you feel like doing is to lift your face towards heaven and praise the Lord for anything, right? Shake your fist in anger, yes! Sometimes we really feel like that. Blame God for what has happened, perhaps. A lot of people do just that. But praise? "For what?" we ask ourselves.
The first step in breaking through the gloom of your difficulty is to understand that what you are doing is right, not necessarily what makes you feel good. Do it in simple, straightforward obedience to Scripture that says, "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Second observation. You will never be so far removed from God that you cannot focus your thoughts on the nature and character of God and say, "Thank you, Lord, for who you are and what you are." Far too much of our relationship with God is experience‑oriented. We praise God when we feel happy and things are going smoothly. But in prison, Paul and Silas sang praise to God. David, the Psalmist, knew what difficulty and trouble are about, yet he said, "I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth" (Psalm 34:1).
No matter how low you feel, no matter what has happened to you, you can yet center your thoughts on the faithfulness of God, upon the fact that He knows your heart and that He will accept you and that His love is not dependent upon your goodness. You can take heart in the fact that the injustices of life are temporal and that someday there will be a final day of reckoning.
Zephaniah, one of the minor prophets of Old Testament days, lived in a period of great turmoil and distress. To people who were facing their fair share of difficulty, he wrote, "The Lord your God in the midst of thee is mighty; He will save, He will rejoice over thee with joy; you [paraphrased] will rest in His love, He will joy over thee with singing" (Zephaniah 3:17, KJV).
That phrase, "you will rest in His love" is interesting. Faced with trouble, it is easy to forget that He loves you, so having made the decision to give thanks, begin to quietly do so, knowing His love is a constant, neither subject to change nor increase. It isn't necessary or needful to thank God for those things which you know clearly were not God's will or purpose for your life, yet you can thank Him that He can still take the fractured, broken pieces and put them together again. He knows your pain and hurt, and yes, no matter what happens--He is bigger than the need that confronts you.
Yes, in every situation, in every circumstance of life, we can yet give thanks, for He is worthy of praise. As one friend put it, "Praise is the only shortcut to victory."
Resource reading: Acts 16:16-40