When I was a teenager, my mother decided to try to start a new tradition at Thanksgiving. She made us all take kernels of corn and she passed around a bowl. We each placed the kernels in the bowl while telling “something or someone we were thankful for.” Needless to say, as a brat of a teenager, I thought this was cheesy. Now, as a parent of two young girls, my wife and I constantly struggle to find ways to draw our children to moments of thankfulness when we find them constantly whining or complaining. We have to remind them of all the blessings of the Lord: our family, our church family, our home, God’s provision. We struggle to remember even the most obvious of blessings in our lives. But I wonder… are we strategically and sufficiently teaching our children (and ourselves) to thank God for the difficulties, and even more so, the difficult people in our lives?
You know the type of people I mean: the ungrateful; the users; the selfish; the annoying; the complainers; the people who have hurt you; the people who have hurt those you love; the ones that are difficult to forgive; the people who never have a positive thing to say. They are the people about whom we complain, the people we often avoid, and definitely the people with whom we wouldn’t want to share a Thanksgiving meal. We all have those people in our lives that we are not thankful for. (By the way, if you don’t have a person like that in your life, it could be that you are that person for other people.) Just a thought.
How should you pray for these people? How can you show gratefulness to God for His grace shown through these people? How can you be obedient to Jesus’ words in Luke 6:28 and “bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”? How can you pray for those for whom you are not thankful this Thanksgiving? Here are three prayers you can pray this Thanksgiving, and every day.
- But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) Thank God that while you were still a sinner, Christ died for you. Remind yourself of the good news of the Gospel this Thanksgiving. The mercy that was shown to you is the mercy you are called to show to your enemies. As Jesus said in Luke 6:35, when you love your enemies, you “will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.” Praise God for loving you when you were (and are) ungrateful. Praise God that when you were evil, He set His love on you. Praise God that those people for whom you are not thankful are a perfect reminder of the mercy shown to you by an infinitely loving God.
- Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalms 139:23-24) Thank God that only He can change the hearts of difficult people. And then pray that He would start with your heart. The truth is, we can all be a difficult, selfish, complaining wretch. What often annoys you about others is a vice you struggle with. How often do you find yourself complaining? How often are you quick to speak and slow to listen? How often do you have to be “right” as opposed to loving? Praise God for difficult people who often expose your own sin and weakness. And praise God that He is faithful to forgive and transform those who trust Him and submit to Him. Now that you have examined your own heart and exposed your heart to the cutting and healing work of the Holy Spirit, you are ready to pray for God to expose the hearts and motives of those difficult people. You are now ready to pray for the supernatural work of God to change them.
- And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:14-15) Thank God that these people are being used to make you more and more like Jesus. Difficult people are used by God to produce patience. Difficult people are used by God to take you to the end of your own strength; to take you to your need for supernatural love, patience, and forbearance. And, according to Colossians 3, the supernatural patience, love, and forbearance that comes from the Holy Spirit can and will produce peace, joy, and thankfulness. The more God uses people to produce patience, love, joy, and peace in you, the more grace you will experience as He makes you more and more like Jesus. Praise God that these difficult people are part of God’s plan to bring you peace and joy.
This Thanksgiving consider starting a new tradition. Bring the most difficult people in your life before the Father. You and your family will always have to deal with difficult people. Embrace the work of God being done in your own hearts through them. And then, by God’s love, mercy, and grace produced in you, find ways to embrace them in prayer and service. Those difficult people may just be the greatest hidden blessings of God in your life.