This December I am turning 36 years old - I’m no longer a young adult, nor am I yet seasoned with the stripes of gray hair that I suspect are creeping right around the corner.

While I’ve lived a very blessed life so far, it hasn’t been all smooth sailing - though compared to what some people have experienced in their lives it has been. As we approach another Thanksgiving Day, I’ve been reflecting a bit lately on what I’ve seen God doing in my life these past few years, and one of the big things is teaching me to be thankful in difficult times.

While this process isn’t always a pleasant one, I’ve been learning it is like sandpaper for my soul.

Anyone who knows me thinks I’m borderline obsessed with C.S. Lewis. After all, I did name my firstborn son after him. OK, I am obsessed. Whatever. So be it.

When speaking on pain and suffering, Lewis once said something that forever stuck with me. Something I’ve been learning through experience these past few years. Lewis wrote: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

Lewis realized that pain and suffering have a unique way of waking us from our spiritual stupor. How? They have a unique capability of revealing where the idols of our heart truly lie. If idolatry is loving something more than God, and it is, our idols are quickly revealed when something threatens to take them from us.

So quickly we attach our life’s meaning and value to things: whether it be good health, wealth, family or career. And when something comes along and upsets the apple cart, there begins a rumble of panic deep within our soul.

What’s the remedy for the rumble? Thankfulness.

When the thing that gives our lives meaning and happiness is threatened or taken from us, we have two choices: bitterness or joy. For the follower of Jesus, we are called to be joyous and thankful while suffering. Why? Because we are called to love God for who He is and not for simply what He gives us.

Like hard steel forged by fire, so too is our faith forged through the fires of adversity. When hard times come, and they surely will, we must speak the promises of God to ourselves that our heads remember but our hearts so quickly forget. We must remember the hope we have, which is so great that it makes our present suffering, which is by no means insignificant, look like nothing at all.

The result is a joy that can’t be taken from you. A joy that isn’t dependent on the fragile things of this world that could never satisfy anyways, but upon the sure promises and faithfulness of a God who saves out of an abundance of His grace.

This process, as I am only just beginning to learn, is sandpaper for the rough edges of my soul.