Authored by Gabriela Farmer (a guest contribution)
I remember my mother often reminding us children to “look on the bright side” and “be thankful for the little things.” If we would complain about the hot weather in mid-June, she would point out, “At least we can go swimming, right?” If we would complain about not having dessert one night, she would ask, “Doesn’t that make you thankful for the nights we do have dessert?” She would try to teach us to take every seemingly “bad” or “sad” situation we faced and look for something that we could appreciate or be happy about. She called this concept “looking for the silver lining in the storm clouds.”
According to the Oxford Online Dictionary,1 the phrase “every cloud has a silver lining” is an English proverb or idiom for optimism, meaning that every difficult or sad situation has a comforting or a more hopeful aspect, even though it may not be apparent immediately.
I’ve found that as I have grown into adulthood, I have made it through almost any tough situation because this concept of thankfulness was ingrained in me since I was a child.
Many of God’s people were faced with difficult or trying circumstances and needed to find the “bright side” of the situation in order to survive. Take Paul and Silas, for example. In the book of Acts, chapter 16,2 we read about the apostle Paul and his fellow missionary Silas preaching the Gospel and bringing people to Christ in Philippi. Some of the city’s elders, who didn’t agree with what they preached, roused an angry mob and the apostles were beaten and thrown into jail.
“The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods.
After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully.
When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
Around midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.”3
They could have spent their time in prison complaining and wishing for freedom. They could have given up and cursed God for allowing them to be beaten and imprisoned, just as Job’s wife advised him to do when he was deathly sick.4 But instead, Paul and Silas spent their time in jail “praying and singing hymns to God.”5 The Lord rewarded their praise with an earthquake that shook the prison walls and threw open the doors.
“Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And at once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose.”6
This was their big chance! They could escape! Isn’t that what the Lord had ordained for them in sending the quake? But instead of hightailing it out of there, they stayed and told the jailer, “We are all here!”7 Being imprisoned is a dreadful circumstance, but instead of focusing on the storm clouds of their present condition, Paul and Silas looked for the silver lining. And because of their capture and imprisonment, they were able to preach the Gospel to the jailer and bring salvation to him and his family.8
My husband, Jonathan, and I faced a “storm cloud” of sorts. A friend of ours borrowed our vehicle while we were on vacation and totaled it in a three-car collision. Besides the fact that Jonathan works outside the city and depends on a car to get to work, we also hadn’t finished paying off the car’s monthly payments. On top of that, the insurance company wouldn’t process our claim, because our friend wasn’t on our insurance plan. So you can imagine that we had a very hard time looking on the bright side of this situation.
One day, after getting off the phone yet again with our auto insurance company, I was complaining to myself about the situation: the car, our bills, our health problems, the fact that Jonathan and I don’t see each other as often as we’d like, and just about my general sorry lot in life. I then happened to glance over to the newspaper on my desk, and some of the recent local and global happenings came to mind:
(Editor’s note: This was written toward the end of 2012 and meant to be posted in time for Thanksgiving. Even though news events may seem slightly dated, the concept can still be applied.)
I thought of the aspiring model, only 19 years old, who was hit by a truck as she was crossing the road, and died.
-Of the 300 foreign workers that will be deported by the end of the month.
-Of the nuclear plant workers in Japan who have been affected by radiation poisoning and are facing lives of sickness and pain.
-Of the 12 moviegoers who were murdered and the 58 who were injured in a shooting rampage at a packed cinema in Colorado, USA.
-Of the tens of thousands of innocent people who have been killed in the political unrest in Syria …
I thought of my own friends and loved ones too:
-Those who have not yet found a stable job that will support them and their family.
-Those whose relatives have disowned them.
-Those whose parents are ailing and fully dependent on them.
-Those who are in financial hardship at present.
-Those whose house burned down, taking everything they owned in the world with it …
It is then that I see I have so, so much to be thankful for:
-Even though we had to put a large amount of money into buying another car, it’s an excellent car and much better than our first one. And the auto insurance company finally agreed to pay 50% of the damages of the previous one.
-Even though we still owe money in loans, we have loved ones who trust us and care about us enough to help us out.
-Even though Jonathan and I see each other less and less these days, I have the endearing love of the most wonderful, caring man in the world, who still tries to make time for me in his busy work schedule.
-Even though I have to work crazy hours myself, I have a good job that is providing steady income.
-Even though we’ve had high medical bills from past sport injuries both of us have had, the physical therapy treatment is working and we’re daily getting better.
So, yes, losing our car was not easy, and being indebted to others in order to pay for the new one isn’t fun either, but no one said life would be a breeze. We’re so thankful for all of our many friends and family who have lent us a helping hand and a listening ear this past year. We couldn’t have done it without them!
We should strive to be more like Paul and Silas. When we find ourselves in a tough situation (and I know you’ve probably have had one or two of your own), let’s make the choice to thank God for the silver lining instead of questioning Him about the unpleasant things He has allowed to happen in our lives. If we choose to keep our eyes on the silver lining, we’ll find that the difficulties have great potential to help us grow.
And if nothing else, we can always thank the Lord for all of the things we do have that make our lives beautiful, happy, and comfortable—as well as for the family, friends, and the kindness of strangers that I’m sure we’ve all experienced at one time or another.
For every dark cloud, there is a silver lining—perhaps hidden at first glance—keeping our paths bright through the tough times.
I encourage you to take time to look up and find your silver lining. You may find your smile will grow bigger and your mind will be more at peace when you realize just how much you have to be thankful for.
1 “Silver lining” definition
2 Complete story can be found in Acts 16:19–40
3 Acts 16:22-25 NIV
4 Job 2:9
5 Acts 16:25 NIV
6 Acts 16:26 NIV
7 Acts 16:28 NIV
8 Acts 16:31–34 NIV
Read by Stephen Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright© 2013 by The Family International