Be grateful for everything and everyone.
Actually, I wonder, outside of Jesus Christ and being filled with the Holy Spirit, how could we do it?
I mean, through Christ, we have much to be grateful for. Forgiveness. Healing. Eternal Life. The presence of God. The ability to know the fullness of love - of God's love...and so much more. But it's still difficult for us to be grateful during times of tests, trials and struggles, isn't it. Or is that just me...?
Seriously, without the Holy Spirit, without God being willing to be strong in our weakness, I can't imagine ever arriving at such a place in my heart.
"Forgive them for that? Come on! As if...!"
"God, did you see what they did to me?!"
"God, can't you feel my pain? How do you expect me to be grateful for that... You can't ask that of me, God; you just can't."
During 'moments' of struggle, during the abuse, I can't imagine being grateful. Even afterwards, before the 'flesh' has had a chance to cover the wound - in the form of a scar (metaphorically speaking) - in order to protect that area from further hurt, I still can't imagine being grateful for the experience.
But then Jesus...
During times of healing, as God worked to free me of my past and the pain attached to it, there came a time where He enabled me to look back at my past, at the 'moments' where I was wounded, and instead of seeing me being hurt, I saw that I had been removed from the scene and Jesus had taken my place. It was no longer I who lived that, but Jesus. And I saw that if God has to judge that situation on the Day of Judgement, because 'they' haven't repented and received forgiveness through Christ for their crime/sin, then the scene that is shown will be one where they are wounding Jesus, not me. His life for mine. He took my place. He removed me from it. And He removed the shame and pain of it from me, too.
I can look back at my past, knowing it was mine, but I feel far removed from it - as though I am viewing someone else's life. God detached me from the scenes, from the wounds given there, and from the brokenness of it all. He removed the tender scars, also. Jesus took them. His life for mine. His story for mine. His wounds for mine. His life for my freedom. His stripes/wounds for my healing. His all for me... And it's the same for you - at least, if you are willing to swap His life for yours, it would be.
I look at my heart now knowing the hurt and scars that once lived there are gone. I see understanding there now. I see a greater love there now - from God for me, and for 'that person' from God, and so on. I see forgiveness now. I see peace now. I know greater love now.
I can be grateful for past experiences now, on the other side of healing, only because I know they have brought me back to God; they have enabled me to discover what true love is - and isn't. And, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, I have been made a better person for it. God has turned all things to good. I see that now. I am grateful for that now. I have understanding now. But I still find it difficult to imagine being grateful during an 'experience'. I can't get my head around the fact that what is being done to me (or any of God's children) 'now' will be, to God, as though it's being done to Jesus - even if by one of His children. I can't imagine being so confident in all God is and does to go, "Ok, this isn't actually against me but against Jesus, so He'll take the shame and pain of it and I'll praise God that He will turn all things to good for me. It's off to eternity I go...!" But that's where I want to go. That's the attitude/belief my heart wants to possess.
I want to climb up into my Father's arms in times of trouble, knowing that He will only allow me to go through what I go through because it will somehow benefit and grow me.
I'm not there yet. I'm still learning in that area. Still growing. But, today, I will be thankful. Today, I will choose to be grateful for loved ones, friends, trials, struggles and even for my enemies, trusting that God has my back; trusting that He will continue to turn all things to good while life goes on around me. And, above all, I will praise Him for His patience with me, for granting me His Spirit, His Heart, Him, and for our precious Jesus Christ and all He has done for you and me.
New International Version - UK (NIVUK)
19 ‘For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.
20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.
The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God,
who loved me and gave himself for me.
21 I do not set aside the grace of God,
for if righteousness could be gained through the law,
Christ died for nothing!’