Choosing Thankfulness

Lorna Johnston /Monday, October 28, 2019


Recently on a family camping weekend, our daughter woke up with a sore throat. Subsequent examination confirmed that it was yet another bout of Strep Throat--the sixth in as any months.While the rest of the family slept in, she and I got in the car and headed to the nearest Emergency Room to get a prescription for antibiotics.

The 30 minute drive was through the beautiful Okanagan Valley, and as we wended our way to the hospital, we were passed by a number of cars travelling faster than us. I remarked that they were probably the day shift heading to the hospital for their Saturday shift. Sure enough we arrived at the hospital just in time for the shift change.

A doctor's examination led to a prescription which was filled at the local pharmacy while we sipped coffee from the local barista. Then back into the car and to our waiting family and breakfast by the lake.

Two hours, round trip, felt nearly miraculous to us, when a similar excursion to our regular hospital in Coquitlam would take many more hours. 

The Drive Home

As we were driving back I verbalized what was on my heart, "Thank you God for your good care of us today. Thank you that Emergency was quiet, and that we have what we need." My daughter, (the one with the sore throat!), laughed and said, "Oh Mom, so many people wouldn't thank God for this morning."

It's true.

Choosing thankfulness is sometimes not the obvious choice. Our family weekend was interrupted by a potentially serious bacterial infection and disrupted plans. Our daughter's weekend was marred by a sore throat and the associated general unwellness of a Strep infection. It would be easy to grumble.

3 Short, Challenging Instructions

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 gives three short, incredibly challenging instructions. "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."

Easy said--hard done.


Years ago, during a mentorship program, we were taught the concept of 'reframing'. To 'reframe' something is to reconsider an experience by asking the questions:

  • Where is Jesus in this experience?
  • What is He doing?
  • How is He going to use this for good?

Simple questions that invite a watchfulness and attentiveness for God to somehow turn a negative experience into something more. Questions that invite us to reconsider.

I think Joseph must have learned this skill during all his hard experiences in Egypt. (Read Genesis 37-50 for the whole story.) At the end of a life marked by undeserved mistreatment he was able to say, "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today." (Gen 50:20) In the midst of inexplicable hardships he remained faithful and trusted God, waiting patiently to see what God was doing, allowing the experiences to refine his character, and in retrospect was able to see God's hand at work.

'Reframing' life and its challenges by looking for how Jesus is at work in our circumstances (and in us!) is a habit we can develop that changes our perspective and gives us the opportunity to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thess 5:18).

When we use a different frame of reference, everything becomes an opportunity to trust God for his provision, and to watch expectantly for how God is at work. We really can choose to be thankful.

What about you?

What circumstance are you facing that could be 'reframed' to watch for God at work?

These days at Outreach Canada, we are exploring gratitude. Want to read more about gratitude? You can find more blog posts here. Or you can find us on Twitter & Facebook to follow along with our exploration on gratitude!

Lorna Johnston in the Diaspora Ministries Leader at Outreach Canada. She leads two national teams--Loving Muslims Together (LMT) and Simply Mobilizing Canada (SMC). She works with teams of diverse and experienced leaders and ministries across Canada to alert and activate the church in Canada to the changing opportunities to engage God's mission right here in Canada.



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