Woman looking up while by a woods

Giving Thanks When It Hurts

Have you ever thought of your thanksgiving being a sacrifice?  

Yeah, me neither. 

And yet, in the Psalms we read this: 

“I will offer you a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord.”

-Psalm 116:17 NLT

In this verse, David talks about offering God a sacrifice of thanksgiving. He was honest about the fact that sometimes being grateful is going to cost us. 

Thanksgiving as a sacrifice? 

In the OT they had to buy grain, flour, or an animal as a sacrifice to pay for their sins. Then they had to take it to the priest to offer it to God.  

It wasn’t easy. It cost them time and money.  

I am no scholar or theologian, but the bible does often call us to sacrifice ourselves.  

  • We are called to sacrifice our bodies. (Romans 12:1) 
  • Pick up our cross and follow Jesus. (Matthew 10:38) 
  • To do good and share with others as a sacrifice that pleases God. (Hebrews 13:16) 
  • And even Hebrews 13:15 calls us to “. . . offer through Jesus, a continual sacrifice of praise to God.”   

What if God is asking us to praise and thank Him even when it is a sacrifice to do so? Even when it costs us something?  

Even in the midst of our suffering? 

After all, it isn’t easy to look for things to be thankful for when life doesn’t feel good. It isn’t easy to praise God through our tears. It isn’t easy to whisper words of gratitude when our heart is breaking.  

So, why would God ask us to do this? 

Why would God ask us to praise and thank Him through our tears and heartache? Could it be that He knows there is something for us in that dark place

Woman with outstretched arms and a quote on thankfulness.

Giving thanks to God in everything 

In the New Testament Paul exhorts us to: 

“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”  

-1 Thessalonians 5:18 NLT

I have to admit that I really struggled with this verse. Until I realized that this verse says to be thankful IN all circumstances . . . it does not say to be thankful FOR all circumstances. 

Because God doesn’t expect us to be thankful for the bad things.  

He knows the divorce wasn’t good. The test results from the doctor weren’t good. The job loss wasn’t good. The prodigal child running from the faith they were raised in isn’t good. 

He doesn’t expect us to be thankful for the bad things in life. But He does expect us to find things to be grateful for even when we are facing hard times.  

Which isn’t going to be easy.  

It’s going to take some effort. It may even require a bit of a sacrifice. But perhaps God has His reasons for asking us to do this.  

Woman looking up in the woods with a bible verse.

Giving thanks through the pain

In Philippians 4:13 Paul states that he can “do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” 

Now, if you read the verses before Philippians 4:13 Paul is talking about how he had learned to be content in all circumstances. Whether he had plenty or not.  

And keep in mind that he wrote this book while sitting in prison.  

That’s right.  

Paul wrote Philippians in prison.  

And the even more stunning thing is that Philippians has been called the book of joy because of how many times Paul references joy and rejoicing in it.  

Can you imagine writing a book on joy while in prison?  

I sure can’t.   

The other fascinating thing is that Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians first. (The verse that calls us to be thankful in all circumstances.) Because all of Scripture is inspired by God, this means God moved Paul to write “be thankful in all circumstances”, knowing full well that Paul would end up in prison.  

He knew Paul was going to have to practice what he preached.  

“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”

-Psalm 42:5 NIV

But God also knew that Paul would grow through what he went through. He knew that learning to be joyful and give thanks through the pain would help Paul learn to lean on Christ as his strength in every situation.  

Paul could be joyful even in prison because he knew no matter what that: 

  • Jesus loved Him.  
  • And Jesus was with Him.  

The reason God asks us to give thanks in all circumstances is that He knows this truth: 

Focusing on the pain leads to more heartache. But focusing on the good things leads to peace. 

Girl on a path in the woods with words on being thankful when life is hard.

Why God Asks Us to Give Thanks When It Hurts 

Think of gratitude as the antidote to negative thought patterns.  

People who choose to be thankful have more energy and confidence. They cope more effectively with everyday stresses. They are more resilient when faced with trauma. And they are even able to recover more quickly from illnesses.   

As it turns out, thankfulness is the first step toward healing.  

God knows what He is doing. He knows what is best for us. That is why He asks us to step out in faith. And to give thanks in all circumstances.   

Even the ones that hurt.  

“In the darkest times of your life, your praise to God should be the loudest. Let the enemy know you’re not afraid of the dark.”

-Toby Mac

Now, if I am completely honest, even knowing all of this . . . I still find it hard to be thankful sometimes.  

Especially when life hurts.  

But I am learning to see that my first step toward healing from those hurts . . . is to find things I am grateful for.  

To offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving . . . through my tears to my Heavenly King.  

Dear Sweet Jesus,  

Help us to stand firm in your grace. Be the light of hope that shines in our darkest night. Remind us that Your love is strong enough to carry us through the storms of life. May we grow closer to You as we choose to praise You and give thanks . . . even when it hurts.  


“My purpose in writing is to encourage you and assure you that what you are experiencing is truly part of God’s grace for you. Stand firm in that grace.”

-1 Peter 5:12b NLT

If you found this encouraging, then please share!   

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