Thankful – No Matter What
Recently some of our church family have experienced ill health, accident, pain, loss of a loved one, heartache, loneliness, depression, disappointment, and much more. If you have experienced one of these or something similar, how are you going to celebrate during this month of thanksgiving? How do you feel grateful when you have been hit by what feels like a gross injustice, something you do not deserve? Over and over you have asked “Why? Why? Why?” only to be met with an uncomfortable silence.
Paul speaks of this very dilemma, and challenges us to “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV). Did I read that correctly? Give thanks in ALL circumstances? Really? This seems like a Romans 8:28 response. Very hard. Not easy.
At the heart of this experience lies the challenge of TRUST. Do I really trust that God has got my back, that He knows what He is doing, and that I am safe with Him? How important is this trust? The same Paul says in another place, “The righteous will live by faith” (Romans 1:17 NIV), meaning that trust or faith in God leads to life – eternal life!
Do you remember Job, who lost everything, including his children? His response just blows me away when he says, “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised” (Job 1:21b NIV). In spite of, he still gives praise to God! This sounds like the prophet Habakkuk who says, even though I have been scammed out of all my money, my retirement investments have crashed with the stock market, and I am left with nothing, “yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation” (3:18 NLT).
Even Jesus cried out in agony by using the “WHY” word, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” The word “why” is often used as an expression of exasperation in the presence of excruciating pain. It is not necessarily an expression of doubt or distrust. This needs to be seen in the context of what He said in the Garden of Gethsemane, even before the cross: “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will” (Mark 14:36 NKJV). His trust and faith was full and firm in His Father’s will for Him.
As you think back over this past year, ask yourself the following questions: *Have I lost a loved one this past year? *Have I heard the dreaded diagnosis, cancer? *Have I suffered significant financial loss? *Have I suffered severe loss of physical mobility? *Have I lost my job of many years? *Have I lost my reputation due to unfair slander and criticism? *Have I lost my close walk with God that I used to have? *Have I experienced any other physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, or relational trauma?
If you have answered yes to any of the above, then I want to ask you, “How are you going to give thanks during this time of thanksgiving?