In everything give thanks: an exercise in faith
by Sharon Robertson, Lt. Colonel –
It’s been a hard year for many people. It seems as if the last couple of years have been defined by the term “loss.” Many have lost employment, lost their homes, lost their sense of security, lost their health, lost family members, lost hope for the future—perhaps even lost faith—and now we are expected to celebrate Thanksgiving? So what are we supposed to be thankful for?
Are we supposed to “count our blessings”—carefully enumerate all the little things that we can come up with in order to counteract the impact of the despair that overwhelms us when we think of all the good things that have been lost? Isn’t that rather hypocritical? How does it make sense to ask us to be truly thankful for every thing? Yet we are exhorted through the Scriptures to Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV).
Perhaps we ought to be praying, “Thank you, God, for closing my eyes to reality, to the really depressing things that have been happening to me lately. In spite of the fact that my life seems to be going down the tube, I’m really grateful!”
I don’t think so.
So what’s going on? What is God really asking of me? Why does God let all this “rotten luck” happen to people who love him and are doing their best to keep in constant communication with him? Why isn’t he taking notice of my despair and doing something to remedy the ills in my life? Does he expect me to pray, “Thanks for nothing, God,” and mean it?
In essence, Job was asking the same question. He took everything that Satan had to offer—loss of family, loss of health, loss of wealth, misunderstanding from friends and from his own wife—and yet maintained his faith in God, but he couldn’t understand why God would allow all those things to happen to him!
Job knew himself pretty well. He knew that God had blessed him abundantly; he knew that he had lived a life that to most would appear blameless, though he knew he was not perfect. What he didn’t realize was that he had allowed himself to lose focus: he felt he deserved better treatment, that God should have protected him from all the bad things happening to him. Otherwise, what profit was it to serve God?
He failed to remember that God has a perfect right to make decisions that may adversely impact the personal comfort of his servants, for the sake of the potential for achieving positive Kingdom objectives through the life of the individual—in short, God IS God.
When we yield our lives to God, we submit ourselves to serving him. His will becomes our priority, and we understand that personal comfort is not the most critical issue in life. Instead of tearfully asking “Why, God, why?” we are enabled to say “God, I may not understand the reasons these things are happening to me, but if only my circumstances may be used to bring honor and glory to your name, I accept them; I promise, with your help, to seek to use my every circumstance to bring others to know you.”
Thanksgiving is not intended to focus on “counting our blessings,” meditating on all of the good things in our life; rather, the Scriptural motivation for giving thanks is a recognition that for God’s people every circumstance provides opportunity to further God’s plan of redemption. We thank God not only for the “blessings” but for every challenge, for every disappointment, for everything that allows opportunity for him to work his ultimate plan through us.
With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 NIV).