Giving Thanks in All Things
Five years ago, I, along with many others, made a modern-day pilgrimage to the gritty and incredible city of Detroit for the beatification of a saint-in-the-making, Blessed Solanus Casey. It was beautiful and momentous, and yet, my sleep-deprived, often-on-overdrive mind can now only recall a few hazy things about that amazing event: One was drinking hot chocolate with my children and husband after walking through the rain following the ceremony. The other was standing in Ford Field listening to the strains of the song ‘O God Beyond All Praising’ as an image of Bl. Solanus was unveiled to the roughly 60,000 of us there to celebrate this moment. And why does this stay in my mind when so many other, bigger things leave it? A line in the song echoes there often: “… and whether our tomorrows be filled with good or ill, we’ll triumph in our sorrows and rise to bless you still: to marvel at your beauty and glory in your ways, and make a joyful duty our sacrifice of praise.”
I wonder so often at that small but significant phrase: Our sacrifice of praise. What is it even?
As we wrap up this month that we have dedicated to learning about the mystery of sorrow, and the ways our Blessed Mother shows us the way to Jesus through the challenges, difficulties and heartbreaks we experience in life, one aspect of sorrow that we want to look at is one that is perhaps the hardest to do—especially when life is difficult and we are faced with suffering, from the small to the incomprehensible and unbearable: Giving thanks in all circumstances.
“Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” —1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
If you are anything like me and you read those words, you might gloss over them with a nod and assent, “Oh yes, beautiful.” But coming back and actually thinking about them… I mean, I can usually find something to complainabout even in the best of circumstances, let alone the worst of them. But finding a way to give THANKS? “Lord, really?” is what my heart and mind cry out. And, “But HOW?”
Before we get to ‘How,’ here are three reasons why God is worthy of our thanks, in good times and in bad (and everything in between):
1. Because God can use anything and everything to expand our hearts, give us a greater capacity to love, and draw us closer to him.
2. Because He is with us in it all. He suffered. His mother suffered. His followers suffered. He knows our suffering and will not leave us alone in it.
3. Because Christ’s story didn’t end with sorrow, defeat and death, and neither does ours. God made us for himself and for heaven. Jesus died and rose again to open the doors for us to live with him eternally. This is a GREAT truth that we need to remind ourselves of often. There is no sorrow on earth greater than this cause for our hope and our joy.
We are not alone.
There are more (so many more!) reasons why we give thanks to God. As Catholics, we believe in God, our good, good Father. Suffering entered the world through the sin of humans, and the fact that there is so much of it in our lives today is the consequence and legacy of the brokenness that is now part of our human condition. But God is with us in it all. One of the names for Christ is Emmanuel—God-is-with-us. When there is sorrow weighing on our minds and hearts and it is hard to give thanks, it is even more important that we do it. It is often an act of the will, not ofour own feelings or emotions. This is truly where and how we make our sacrifice of praise to the Lord.
Here are a few ideas for ways we can give thanks in all things:
1. Meditate on the Word of God. The Bible is filled with wisdom and truth, both timeless and timely. Look up verses about gratitude and giving thanks and write them as reminders to yourself, leaving them in places where you’ll see them often: the bathroom mirror, by your kitchen sink, on the car dashboard. To get started:
-Praise the Lord for he is good; for his mercy endures forever. (Psalm 136:1) Some translations say: Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; his steadfast love is forever.
- We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
- Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6)
- And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:15)
- Persevere in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. (Colossians 4:2)
2. Listen. When we are troubled, our minds can race and we can be ready to dive into action, to do anything we can to try to change the situation, fix the problem, or take control of the circumstances. Before we move into action, we are called to simply, “Be still and know that I am God!”as we are told in Psalm 46:10. That chapter of Psalms actually begins with, “God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in times of distress.” Before we can go to battle in our own lives, we must strive to quiet our own thoughts and reactions so that we can hear the Lord speaking to us in our need. Knowing he is with us is always something to be thankful for.
3. Fill your mind with good. We can become trapped in our own negative thoughts, anxieties and worries. One simple way to help drown out those thoughts is to hear the truth being spoken (or sung). Listen to praise music, podcasts like Poco a Poco by Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, Blessed is She, Fr. Mike Schmitz’s Bible in a Year, or the beautiful Abiding Together (and there are so many more! These are a few of our favorites).
4. Pray. When it feels too hard or overwhelming to pray on your own, try finding an online rosary, Divine Mercy chaplet, or Seven Sorrows chaplet to pray. Check out our resources for helping you to learn how to pray (which include audio Rosary downloads): chewslife.com/collections/downloadable-products. Of course, all of our products are meant to help equip Catholics to live our faith everyday, so wearing one of our beautiful bracelets can be a simple and concrete reminder to pray and give thanks. Check them out here: chewslife.com/collections/rosary-bracelets and here: chewslife.com/collections/mens-rosary-collection.
5. Write it down. It may seem simple and perhaps trite in the face of suffering, but writing down something, even just one thing, each day to be grateful for is a way to build a habit of gratitude, and open ourselves up to being able to receive God’s love in the midst of suffering and sorrow. It may not change the circumstances, and we are not thanking him for the situation causing us sorrow, but we are thanking him in that situation.
6. Go to Mass. The word “Eucharist” literally means “thanksgiving” —so heading to Mass, whether we feel like it or not, is a participation in giving thanks to God. Receive the sacraments often and ask the Lord to give us the grace we need to be able to thank him in the midst of our suffering.
As we wrap up this month of delving into the mysteries of sorrow in the Christian life, let’s pray that we can continue to grow to the point of truly embracing the suffering we experience, allowing it to bring us closer to God. May we, like Mary, be able to say, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; and my spirit rejoices in God, my Savior!”(Luke 1:47)
Pssst!: Our beautiful Memento Mori bracelets and our Seven Sorrows gemstone rosaries are being restocked Friday, September 30, and are sure to be gone in a flash!What is ‘Memento Mori’? Loosely translated from Latin, it means ‘Remember your death’—essentially a reminder that our lives here on earth are not our ultimate destiny. In yet another paradox of our faith, this reminder of death teaches us to live well in order to attain eternal life, while contemplating the sorrows of our Blessed Mother prepares us for eternal joy. Get these beautiful prayer aids before they go!