Give thanks to the Lord because He is good, for His kindness is eternal. Psalms 107: 1
It is customary to thank others when they do something for us. I thank my wife when she brings my something. I thank the store clerk when they help me find something. I thank coworkers for helping me do things at work. Most of us do this out of habit. It is a way to show our appreciation for the things others do. It’s a nice thing to do. In recent years we are hearing the phrase thank you less and less. Our focus has shifted from one of appreciation to one of expectation. Giving thanks is something different. For many people, the phrase has been reduced to what we say when we eat. We are instructed in the Bible to give thanks for the food we eat. But, what about everything else? Shouldn’t we give thanks for our homes, our families, our jobs? What about our happiness? It seems like we should be thankful for that. There are a lot of good things in our lives for which to be thankful. We should be thankful for the big things as well as the little things. I’m thankful when I make it through an intersection before the light changes.
Being thankful and giving thanks are not the same thing. Being thankful gives us a feeling of, “I’m glad that happened”. Giving thanks is an acknowledgment and showing appreciation to HaShem for something. One is an action while the other is more of an emotion. How often have you heard someone say, “I was so thankful”? Our society puts too much emphasis on feelings. Our actions show our true feelings. It is not enough to have the feeling. We must act upon it and give thanks, as the verse above tells us. Saying you are thankful is no different than saying you are happy, sad, angry, or joyful.
How often do you show your appreciation for the things in your life? Many people pray every day and thank G-d for the good things in their lives. But, there are times in our lives when we should give thanks and do not. I am talking about the bad times. Do you thank G-d for the bad things in your life? You should. Sometimes our situation seems bad. People think that G-d is punishing them for something. Other times we might think He has forgotten us and the bad things in our lives are the result. These are foolish ideas and the work of the Yetzer Hara, the evil inclination. Know for certain that your creator has not forgotten you. It is true that He does punish people, but have you done something for which you deserve punishment? Most of the time it is our Yetzer Hara telling us we deserve to be punished. Then we try to figure it out. All sorts of things go through our minds. This might just be all in your imagination. Now, if you know you have done something wrong, you must repent. That is a different situation altogether.
How do you know that what is happening to you is bad? Here is what many people believe. The bad thing is something out of their control. It makes them uncomfortable. There is some type of loss. These three things account for what most people perceive as a bad situation. It could be the loss of a job, a car accident, or getting in trouble at work for something someone else did. There is no end to the possibilities of things we perceive as being a bad situation. Situations can be summed up in one of two ways. Bad situations cause sadness while good situations cause happiness.
Life is not that simple. Our perceptions are usually near-sighted. It is possible that what we perceive as a bad situation today, might turn out to be the best thing that could have happened. People lose their jobs every day only to wind up with a better job. If this happened to you, wouldn’t you give thanks for getting the better job? Had you not lost the first job, you might never have gotten the better job. Read the book of Job. There are many stories in the Bible where a seemingly bad situation turned out to be the best thing possible. The story of Joseph comes to mind. He was sold into slavery, accused of rape, and thrown into prison. He later wound up as second only to Pharaoh. Did G-d forget Joseph in the prison? No. It was all part of the master plan. The same things happen today.
Everything HaShem does for us is always for the very best. Often times He puts us in situations that will bring us closer to Him. That is what He wants for us. He loves us and wants us to make Him a part of our lives. If it takes putting us in an uncomfortable position for a short time, isn’t it worth it? If you expect your life to be easy every day of your life, you are following your evil inclination. Your evil inclination will try to trick you into thinking HaShem hates you, or has forgotten you. It is all imagination. You must accept that the things that happen to you are because He has your best interest at heart. Why wouldn’t He? He created you.
Then next time you find yourself in a bad situation, thank HaShem for it. He is doing something in your life that will bring you closer to Him. There is no better place to be. The secret to happiness is knowing that there really are no bad situations. Everything He does is for the best even if we don’t see it. There will be sad times in your life. Loved ones die, people do things to us, bad things. Oftentimes we can’t see the big picture. When you are in a bad situation, cry out to Him. He is listening and waiting for you to turn to Him. It may be difficult and counter-intuitive, but thank Him for everything.
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