Instead, I want the items below to challenge you to think about parts of your life that you can be thankful for even though 1) others may see your items as negative or 2) you may see them as trials yourself. Trials or not, consider the redemptive strains present in all areas in your life, not just the ones you would usually say while waiting for someone to pass you the mashed potatoes.
Here’s my list:
I am thankful I am single. In one sense, if I had pursued marriage in past situations, it would have been unwise and unhealthy. In another sense, I have changed considerably in the past few years, which would have been an even trickier journey if my hypothetical spouse didn’t like the direction I was going. Mostly, however, I have lots of ideas and ambitions. Not that being married would inhibit that, but it would make the process of making choices about my direction more complicated.
I am thankful I do not have children. As a teacher–and an aunt to eight nieces and nephews–I have considerable knowledge about the commitment having a child entails. I also know how difficult it is for other teachers to attend to their own children while spending most of their waking hours tending to other people’s children. I am thankful that the balance between children and other parts of my life is not one I currently have to work towards. I am also thankful that I can change my plans at a moment’s notice to help someone who needs it (sometimes, ironically, with their children) or to do something fun.
I am thankful to have a job that does not pay well. It reminds me my job is important. It reminds me I do what I do because I believe it’s important, not because of monetary reward. Being paid “just enough” also keeps me from being too comfortable and makes me more aware of others’ needs.
I am thankful I struggle mentally and emotionally. Acknowledging that fact and continuing to work through it has resulted in growth I wouldn’t exchange. Being honest about it has also helped others feel more comfortable being honest with me in a way we can more deeply support one another. Being honest with myself about it has broken down barriers I had created between me and others and between me and God. Constant reminder of my own weakness is also a constant reminder of my need for grace and redemption.
At my college’s baccalaureate (the pre-graduation religious service), the college president read a strange prayer. I don’t remember it exactly, but the prayer asked God to bring us trial, disillusionment, and discomfort; essentially, the prayer asked that we be challenged beyond what was familiar or even desirable, that we might better understand God’s heart and be mindful of the needs of others. I called the prayer “strange,” but really, as Christians, that kind of prayer shouldn’t be strange at all. Jesus’ definition of “blessed” and reasons to rejoice were more like that baccalaureate prayer than the reasons modern society proclaims (from Matthew 5):