Thorns have Roses

by Kelsey Knobloch

“Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good.”

– Genesis 50:20a

Have you started putting up your Halloween decorations yet? I can cheerfully say that I have. It may only be mid-September, but by my reasoning if the stores can put out Christmas decorations in the middle of October, I’m certainly justified in putting out pumpkins and ghosts in September! That’s two and a half months of Christmas displays (mid-October to the end of December), and all I’m asking is a month and a half (mid-September to the end of October) of Halloween. I was actually out shopping for Halloween decorations last week!

Christmas is certainly important; after all, Christ’s arrival to our little Earth was, is, and should be a life-shattering event. But part of the reason I go out looking for Halloween so early is that I also really enjoy another holiday that is often overlooked between Halloween and Christmas: Thanksgiving. I can almost promise you, the day after Halloween, the rest of the world switches to Christmas mode. So I’m forced to search for fall and “thankful” decor in mid-September.

As I see it, being thankful should never go out of style. The number of times we should be giving thanks knows no bounds. Many faithful are very keen to remember 1 Thessalonians 5:17 which exhorts us to “pray without ceasing,” but the surrounding verses (16 and 18) remind us to “rejoice always” and “give thanks in all circumstances.” Much like the challenges provided by praying “without ceasing,” I challenge you to think about the challenges, logistic or otherwise, involved in rejoicing “always” and giving thanks “in all circumstances.”

Yes, all circumstances. I had the awful experience of being in my first serious car wreck about a month and a half ago. I was (and am) fine, but my wife’s car was totalled. Do I give thanks for that? Yes, I can give thanks that I was not hurt, nor was the other driver, but the circumstances of the wreck weren’t great. Am I to give thanks for the ruined car? It certainly classifies as part of the “all” in “all circumstances.” One of my friends from college recently learned that the bosses at his new job were embezzling from the company. His financial future is in question, and he has the moral quandary of whether or not to continue working in a place with dishonest people where the same situation could repeat itself. Where should one rejoice in that circumstance? 

We can play this game all day. Where does the family of someone who died from COVID-19 find a circumstance to rejoice in? How do you rejoice if you’ve lost your job? Received a life-changing medical diagnosis? Rejoice always? It’s too much, God. We can’t do that.

Or can we? There are no doubt hundreds of books written about finding a “silver lining” or flipping the script on bad situations. French journalist Almphonse Karr wrote that you can complain that roses have thorns, or give thanks that thorns have roses. God gives us the tools we need to rejoice always and give thanks in all circumstances. I can’t pretend to have a happy solution for every challenge we face, but I can certainly try. 

I can give thanks that I have been blessed enough to be driving a car in the first place when I got into a wreck, and rejoice that we are so blessed that we could replace it. My friend can rejoice that he now has more workplace experience, so that if he moves on it will be easier to find a new job. Someone who lost their job can rejoice in that they have the opportunity to look for a better one, or that they can experience the blessings of friends and family that are willing to help. It may sound like a stretch, but we can learn here from the story of Joseph: even in situations where it seems everything wishes us harm, “God intended it for good.” (Genesis 50:20)

We know that God has us in His hands, regardless of what may happen. At the end of Matthew 6, Jesus tells us that God knows what we need, and will provide for us just as he does the lilies of the field and the birds of the air (Matthew 6:25-34). Even when our time on this Earth ends, Jesus claims us as His own, and has gifted to us eternal life. No one can snatch us from Him (John 10:28).

I’m not saying that the constant rejoicing will be easy, or that we will even be able to do it. But we can certainly try. So give thanks for the circumstances you have, even when they cause troubles. Give thanks that the path that led you to that place existed, that you were, are, and will continue to be in His hands, now and forevermore. Find an excuse, any and every excuse, to give thanks. Day to day, hour to hour, moment to moment. In all circumstances. Rejoice that thorns have roses, and that God made them both.

“Give thanks with a grateful heart, give thanks to the Holy One,

Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son.

Give thanks with a grateful heart, give thanks to the Holy One,

Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son.

And now let the weak say ‘I am strong,’ let the poor say ‘I am rich,’

Because of what the Lord has done for us.

And now let the weak say ‘I am strong,’ let the poor say ‘I am rich,’

Because of what the Lord has done for us.

Give thanks!”

– TFF 292, words & Music by Henry Smith