God’s blessings come in two flavors: sweet and sour. For me, sweet blessings include strawberry smoothies and anything else I enjoy, such as purring cats, friendly emails and evenings with my wife browsing books at Barnes & Noble. Sour blessings include complaints from anyone, chores I’m too tired to do and the assorted disappointments of life.

In the aftermath of the Thanksgiving holiday, we’ve all been duly admonished about the importance of being thankful. It’s easy to thank God for the sweet blessings, but the Bible tells us to “rejoice in the Lord always” and “give thanks in all circumstances” (Philippians 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:18). This obviously includes when I’m feeling bombarded by situations that bring me sadness or annoyance.

Why does God want me to look to the light when things seem dark? Because many of life’s greatest disappointments turn out to be our greatest blessings.

I remember back in 1997 when our family car broke down on the New Jersey Turnpike outside New York City. Our car had to be towed to a service station, with all of us inside feeling less than happy. Little did we know that the very next day our church in Maryland would celebrate Pastoral Appreciation Day by honoring us with a special luncheon after church. As an afterthought, they presented us with a brand new Ford Taurus as a “token of appreciation”–complete with a year’s insurance paid in advance.

Thank you, New Hope Church family. That car not only gave me eight years of trouble-free transportation, but it also reminded me constantly that some very nice people really loved me.

Many of life’s sour blessings will become sweet in time. This might not happen overnight (as with my new car), but in the end God has promised to work all things for good to those who love Him enough to get on board with His purposes. (You know, Romans 8:28.) Meanwhile, however, life isn’t all fun and games when most of God’s blessings are of the sour variety. With our minds and hearts crowded by pain, it’s hard to remember that most of the important things we’ve learned about God and about life come from the seminary of suffering. But even Jesus “leaned obedience through what He suffered” (Hebrews 5:8). And if our Lord needed pain to become optimized for His mission in life, certainly we do as well.

So then, “count it all joy, my brothers [and sisters], when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).