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Gratitude in a Season of Turmoil

Do you find it difficult to generate a heart of praise in the midst of problems? Gratitude in a season of turmoil sounds like an oxymoron. I am much more inclined to celebrate in the good times and complain in the bad. But I’m working on making a change, and the birds of the air are teaching me how.

Last week, Laura (my wife) told me that when she let our dog out it was snowing. Snowing. Welcome to Indiana in April. I think the term “Spring Break” means our weather takes a break from spring and digresses back to winter. Two days later when Laura let our dog out, it was storming. Snowing one day, storming the next, but my wife was surprised to hear birds chirping both days.

She couldn’t see the birds, but she heard their sweet chorus of praise even in the storm and the snow. The elements would not deter them. Come what may, they were created to chirp jubilantly, and chirp away they did.

Somehow in God’s created order, plants, animals, sun, moon and stars all do what they were designed to do. Humanity is the only part of God’s creation that gets to choose compliance or rebellion.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that my moments of ingratitude are a reflection of rebellion. I’m unhappy with my lot in life, my circumstances of gloom, and my experiences of misfortune. And so I wallow rather than worship.

Our neighborhood birds, on the other hand, followed the design of their creation. One morning was snowing, one morning was storming, but the birds kept chirping. I need to learn this lesson from our faithful fowls.

When Paul and Silas were shackled in prison, they prayed and worshiped (Acts 16:25). When Peter and the other apostles were beaten and charged not to speak in the name of Jesus, they rejoiced “that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name” (Acts 5:41).

The Apostle Paul once wrote, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (Philippians 4:11). That includes the times of storms and sunshine, when health is good and when it begins to fail, and when the job is smooth sailing and when it may be ready to sink.

No, the task is not easy, and, no, we won’t always “feel” content, but we can choose contentment just as we can choose joy in spite of the storms of life. Joy and struggle are not antithetical; the first can emerge from the second with our reliance upon Christ. For you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 1:6).

I don’t connect joy with affliction, but God does—not because He is a vicious sadist wishing us to suffer, but because He sees what comes after. God sees the bigger picture. God knows that pain, suffering and death are not the final word.

We, therefore, can experience joy in affliction, because we know storms do not last. “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5).

Maybe that’s why the birds sing in the middle of the storm. They worship the God who will usher in Spring, even if we can only feel the cold.