If I asked you to name right now five things you are grateful for, I’m sure you can rattle off more than that—family, friends, food, a home, a car, a job, sunshine, snow, coffee, and so on. They’re likely things that you care about, things that give you all the warm and fuzzy feelings, and things that you feel you probably couldn’t live without.
This year, I’ve learned to be thankful for the things that don’t give me these feelings—things that don’t go according to plan, things that challenge me, and things that bring me to the realization that I am not the author of my story.
The following five things typically cause us to feel down, defeated, and wanting to give up. However, as I have learned through my own experiences, it’s how we respond to these challenges that make all the difference in our stories. Do we allow them to break us, or to shape us into the person God wants to use in the world?
Maybe you’ve been applying to different jobs and keep getting the same email over and over, which goes along the lines of, “Sorry but we are pursuing other candidates that more closely match our needs.”
There was a time when I’d apply to anything and everything, just because I felt that’s what I was supposed to be doing. I’d get rejected, but didn’t really care because I didn’t really want the job anyway.
After a period of doing this, I realized that wasn’t what God wanted me to be doing. I saw that I was being impatient and trying to rush His timing to find work. Philippians 4:19 was one of the verses that kept popping up to assure me that I would be just fine. “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”
I didn’t need to stress. I just needed to seek His will and not be afraid to step out in faith when the time came. I’ve since stopped applying to every job opening and instead only to things I know I would enjoy. I haven’t found the perfect job yet, but I can rest in His promise that He has the perfect plan for me.
If you’re in a similar situation, remember that God is protecting you. He isn’t going to let you settle for less than what He created for you. This “no” that you’re getting now is simply just a bump in the road that you’ve got to cross in order to reach the destination He has in store for your life.
As we age, we become more certain of the type of person we want to spend the rest of our lives with. We can be confident we’ve found “the one”, only for everything to change drastically a few months later. We have our hearts broken or sometimes do the heart breaking ourselves. Regardless of who is to blame, the end of a relationship is usually a painful one. It can leave us feeling unloved, broken, and sad.
When my last relationship ended out of nowhere, it hit me hard. I didn’t understand it at the time, but what God showed me was that no matter how heartbroken I felt, He was still there and He wasn’t going anywhere. He wanted me to learn to recognize the true value of who I am to Him—loved and treasured—and not base my worth on how another person felt about me. He brought new friendships, new opportunities, conversations, and songs into my days that eased the pain and helped me see that right now, He’s the only relationship I need.
Instead of sulking in negative emotions, we can focus on the fact that in one moment (that’s right, a single moment), we are loved by a God who died to give us life, more than any other human being could love us in a lifetime. Know that you are loved endlessly, regardless of the hurt you feel.
We yearn for relationships, both romantic and platonic. We like to have someone to talk to, someone to lean on. We have an ache in our hearts that only God can fill, but we look elsewhere for satisfaction. Some rush into a relationship that isn’t right for them because they feel like they need someone, while others hook up with strangers because they want to feel some love in some way, even if that means they will be left feeling emptier than before.
Since my last relationship ended, there have been moments when I felt very lonely seeing everyone around me in a relationship, getting married, or having babies. It got me wondering when my turn would come. Though it was tough, it gave me the opportunity to grow as an individual.
It’s in the loneliest of times that I’ve become the happiest with who I am; I began to see myself as how God does, to know that I’m precious and I’m loved. I’ve taken spur-of-the-moment road trips, attended Bible studies, spent lots of time in nature, read books about relationships, and concentrated on growing my relationship with Christ, my family, and friends.
So yes, while loneliness is not a fun thing to go through, it’s what you make of it, and it can turn out to be the most enjoyable time of your life. Spend your time doing things that you might not otherwise do. Pick up a new hobby, spend time with your friends, volunteer, travel.
Whether it’s the flu or something more serious, it’s scary when we face any sort of health challenge. What if it turns into this? What if that happens? What if I don’t get better? The list of questions, fears, and scenarios we rack up in our heads can be unending and overwhelming.
Last year, I was sick for a month and could barely leave the couch. I didn’t realize how much I took health for granted until I could barely eat, talk, or move around without feeling like I was going to pass out. For days, the thermometer read 101 degrees Fahrenheit and my tonsils were bigger than ever. I’d wake up with gunk in my throat, and have no appetite. I broke down more than once because I felt like it was never going to end.
Finally, the day came when the temperature broke and I started to feel okay again. I haven’t forgotten how that felt, and now I try to live each day with a grateful heart knowing that someday, I won’t be able to do the things I can do now. A sickness or ageing or something else unforeseen could easily take away the ability to do something I can do now. So while I’m able, I will do what I can and be thankful for every day that I’m able to move, jump, skip, eat, and so on.
When it comes to sicknesses, some of us will get better, but some will not, and that can be difficult to accept. But let’s remember that there’s a life coming where we won’t suffer anymore and there will be no pain or tears or sicknesses. Whether healthy or ill, we have a hope for a life that’s inconceivably better than this world we live in now.
The second semester of my junior year of college is one that has stayed with me every day. It was the first time I experienced the loss of people I’d loved dearly. First in February, then in March. One was a man I called my grandpa; the other was a good friend that I’d gotten to know from my nephew’s hockey team. He was only 17. Both were men of God whose faith was evident in all that they said and did.
Though I felt sad, angry, and empty all at the same time, losing the both of them challenged me to the core and taught me two things. One, that life is precious and unpredictable—at any moment, anything and everything could change. We aren’t promised tomorrow, neither are we promised the next hour. Two, that what we do with our lives now can make a difference. Their lives inspired me to want to know God more, to live like Him, to love others like He did, and to be excited about His plan for me and those around me.
Death is inevitable. We can use our time now wisely and look forward to the life we’ll have together once we’re in heaven. I’m sure it’s going to be one big party with Jesus, and it’s going to be good.
Next time you’re going through a rough patch, remember it’s only a season, and seasons are ever-changing. Don’t let the season shake you and leave you feeling defeated. Try changing your attitude about it, how you react, and open your heart to being thankful for every moment—good, bad, challenging, easy.