… being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of His holy people in the kingdom of light. 13For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, 14in Whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:11-14, NIV)
Some Christians can confuse genuine gratitude to God with denial of life’s challenges and pains. They subscribe to this “always look on the bright side of life” philosophy that minimizes or ignores the hardships we all experience. They think this sort of denial is required of Christians.
But this philosophy of life and faith is not what we see in Scripture. Take Col. 1:11-12, for example. Paul prays that the Colossians may be “joyfully giving thanks to the Father.” Notice the surprising context for this prayer. Verse 11 and 12a read: “being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12and giving joyful thanks to the Father.” Observe that joyful thanks happen as the Colossians are “enduring everything with patience.” From Paul’s letter we do not know much about what exactly they have to endure. But endurance goes hand in hand with hard things, including suffering. Either in their present experience or in the near future, the Colossian believers will have to struggle. Even so, they should be joyfully giving thanks to God.
How is this possible that we can be thankful, even joyfully thankful, when life is hard? Paul helps answers us with what comes next. We are to be thankful for the big things, for major expressions of God’s grace: including heavenly inheritance, rescue from darkness, citizenship in Christ’s kingdom, redemption from bondage, and forgiveness of sins (vv. 12b-14). The more we focus on the gifts of God to us, the more we’ll be able to give thanks, even with joy, when life is hard.
When I go through hard, challenging times, I am helped to be thankful by my Christian community. When brothers and sisters in Christ lift up my concerns and struggles in prayer, I am comforted. When they offer thanks for God’s gifts, they shine God’s light into the dark cave of my own pain. I can rejoice in gratitude along with others even when my own situation feels dire. This does not mean I have to pretend that life is all rosy. Far from it! But doing life with other believers enables us to be honest about our afflictions and to give thanks for God’s gifts (see 2 Cor. 1:8-11).
Allow me to encourage you to consider the following questions.
1. Are you able to give thanks when life is hard? If so, why? If not, why not?
2. What helps you to be thankful even when dealing with grief or suffering?
Share your struggles with your brothers and sisters in Christ,
so that they might pray for you.