In trials, your faith is being tested and when that happens you will find yourself growing in patience, in character, in maturity. No one wants to stay a "baby Christian" and there's no better way to grow up than when you face trials. Give thanks.
You will learn first-hand just how near God is to you. When things are smooth and you think (falsely) that you've got everything under control, there is very little real need to run to Jesus. But, we can be thankful for the divine press that a trial causes. When I know I can't fix something and I need higher help, my intimacy with God grows and the realization that He is right here with me all the time is comforting. Give thanks.
Whether the trial is of our doing or whether it has been put upon us by another's doing, trials are difficult. They are a type of chastening or discipline. If not because of a direct consequence of our sin or others' sin, trials chasten us because they reveal our hidden sins. As much as it hurts me when my hidden sins bubble up to surface, I am thankful that God would love me enough to deal with them and refine me. I want to be more and more conformed into the image of His Son, Jesus, and I know He has much work to do in me. Give thanks.
Trials make me step back and consider God. Who is this One who is permitting this kind of hardship in my life? Does He really love me? Is He truly good? Going on long walks has been an opportunity for me to meet with God and dwell on Him. Along with David, I cry out to God in my trials and am honest. And, also with the psalmist, I continue on by speaking truths about God. Even though [name your trial] is happening, YOU, O, Lord are good...near...loving...comforting...a refuge...my strength...Give thanks.
Without this trial, would I be thankful? Would I realize the extent of my ingratitude? My entitlement mentality? When we're without health, isn't it true that we realize how thankful we should have been for good health? When we're estranged from a loved one, don't the memories of close and happy times reveal all the ways we should have been thankful then? It is so easy to take life, and health, and people for granted. If you are currently living on flowery beds of ease, be earnest to give thanks. When those beds wither up from trials, thankfulness will be all the harder to stir up. Cultivate a habit of thankfulness in the good so that it can be possible in the bad. Give thanks.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18
In a world of instant gratification, trials build in me a long-term vision. A learning to wait. Not only this, but trials build a contentment in the wait. How convicted I am when I realize how I have been murmuring about my situation or complaining of how things used to be or comparing how she doesn't have to endure what I'm enduring. Am I much different than the Israelites in the wilderness? Of course not. God sanctifies us in our trials and grows in us a contentment that we do not naturally possess. Give thanks.
While I recently asked a friend to pray that I would be content in my circumstances, I was challenged by James' exhortation in the Scripture at the beginning of this post. Not only should I be content in difficult times, but I should count it all joy. Until a trial forces us to do this, we will read the apostles' words in the book of Acts as a disengaged outsider:
So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. Acts 5:41
The apostle Paul's letter to the Philippians is often known for its joy. Was Paul writing this during an easy season of his life? Not if you consider imprisonment easy!
I think that perhaps the only way we can count trials a joy is when we have purposed to be thankful throughout them. As I focus on these seven ways to be thankful in my trials (and there are many more!), the result really is joy.
And I give thanks for that.