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The Hardest "Thank You"
What would you say would be the hardest time for you to say, “thank you”?
I can think of a few specific examples where my “thank you” could be difficult and perhaps insincere.
It’s easy to say “thank you” when we’re lavished with wonderful gifts, or after receiving someone’s much needed help, or anytime we receive something we like and appreciate from someone else – including, of course, from God.
But what about when what you’ve just gone through has been incredibly painful to your spirit, emotions, or body? This is the challenge of this blog today for you. Can we be thankful – at least to God -- no matter what is going on?
A while back I gave a sermon on being thankful IN all things and FOR all things. I’m learning to practice this better and better as time goes along, but I can still find this difficult at times, at least in the beginning, until I remember I belong to God and trust what He is doing in me. Here are several verses about being thankful at all times, in all things, for all things:
Philippians 4:4-7 NIV: “Rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but IN everything, by prayer and petition, WITH THANKSGIVING present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
I think thanking God IN everything we go through, is hard at first, but it does get easier to do the more we practice it. And the peace – oh, the PEACE – one gets from doing this – is beyond description! Just as Paul says. We can sorrow, and still also rejoice in the broader bigger picture. Look how Peter puts this juxtaposition of peace/joy and sorrow:
Ephesians 5:20-21 – “giving THANKS ALWAYS for ALL THINGS to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another in the fear of God.”
I REALIZE thanking God FOR ANYTHING, and EVERYTHING sounds crazy when you’re in a terrible situation. But no matter what, the more we practice this, the more peace in the trial we will experience! This includes accidents, health issues, your diabetes, loss of loved ones, pain you’re going through – everything! For ALL things, IN ALL things – means just that! Everything.
It's hard to thank God in some circumstances, but please start doing it. In the beginning, you’ll hop back and forth from submissive gratitude for even a painful event or condition—to feeling God is unaware of you and not hearing your prayers. Submit to his edicts on what we go through. It will pay big dividends.
When our son died when I was 29 years old, I remember kneeling beside my bed and saying, “Even in this, I’m supposed to thank you, Father. I’m finding that so hard to do. But I trust you, that you have a reason and purpose for this, so accept my struggling ‘thank you’ to you. But Father, I still don’t know why you allowed it. I’m hurting, a lot. And Carole my wife is devastated too. We need your comfort and peace and reassurance….” And I went on from there. It was hard, very hard, to thank God for the death of our son, but at his burial the man from the funeral home with us commented that he had never seen a couple with so much peace at such a painful moment. I remarked, “oh, it’s because I know God has a purpose in this. But really, I feel like getting in that grave with him right now…” So it’s a mix of rejoicing and grieving as Peter says below.
1 Peter 1:6-9 – “In this you greatly REJOICE, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been GRIEVED by various TRIALS, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 8 whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 receiving the end of your faith — the salvation of your souls.”
So many things God puts us through are painful: the death of your spouse or child would top the list for a lot of people, pain involving deaths. Or from prolonged pain from illness and physical afflictions like we’d suffer with rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, bone-on-bone joint pain, end-stage cancers and more. Some of our brothers and sisters around the world are being terribly persecuted, tortured and killed for believing in Christ. Others have their children taken away and sold into slavery.
All of that would be terribly painful. Why would anyone thank God for all of those?
Scripture is clear that once we die to the self, and let Messiah redeem us, pay our sins’ debts – that we now belong to Him. God is now “calling the shots”.
Once we belong to Yeshua, we have to trust the scriptures that say things like “EVERYTHING – ALL THINGS -- work together for GOOD – to those who love God and are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28).
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 - “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were BOUGHT at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's.
This means we have to trust God and Messiah that no matter what we go through, they’re aware of it, allowing it and working in it. God is aware of the number of hairs on your head. He knows our thoughts before we think them. He knows our worries, concerns and pains. And we have to trust the Bible when God tells us He IS love.
After all, He sent his eternal companion – the Word – to become mere flesh and die for us. This Word became His own SON… and look what he put Jesus through, for us, so we would not have to die or suffer God’s wrath for our sins. THAT is proof, surely, of his love for you and me.
Paul sought God’s intervention several times for what he referred to as “the thorn in my flesh”. God finally told Paul that it was through that ordeal that Paul would see God’s grace and grow into the spiritual maturity God wanted for him. I explore this in more depth in the 2-part sermons on “God’s Perfection for us – God’s way”. I hope you’ll watch the videos.
Here's what Paul says about God’s answer to him on his “thorn in the flesh” trial:
2 Corinthians 12:8-10 – “Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
In spite of the pain and suffering, GOD’S strength is coming to us during and because of the suffering we go through. We are being perfected… all brought out in the new sermons on Perfection.
God used pain and suffering to finish Yeshua’s preparation to be high priest. He uses pain and suffering to perfect, mature and finish us as well.
Hebrews 2:10 – “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.”
He was being prepared to be the best possible High Priest he could be. That required understanding the weaknesses and trials of those you serve – and so that’s one reason why Yeshua had to suffer so much – certainly with his crucifixion. This allowed him to understand pain at so many levels. The physical pain of crucifixion is beyond description. Plus the pain of rejection, of being alone, even realizing Father in heaven would not take his pain and suffering away but had to let him die painfully.
We also are being prepared to be priests in God’s kingdom – helping others. We’re called a “royal priesthood”, remember. So that is why we have to also be tested and tempted in all points as Jesus was (Hebrews 4:15), so we understand sin and its consequences. That’s also why we have to suffer the death of loved ones or endure incredible pain – so we can be empathetic with others. Of course God sometimes heals our pains and suffering, though he did not take away Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” and did require Yeshua’s suffering and death.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 -- “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
No one knows the pain of losing their child unless you’ve also lost your child. No one knows the pain of losing a beloved husband or wife, unless you’ve been through it. And the pain of losing a spouse is different from the pain of losing a child. So God lets a number of us go through all that so we can better understand what others go through when they also lose their spouse or child. That process matures us, deepens our understanding and ability to be a great priest in the future and even to help in this life.
WHEN we understand and ACCEPT that all things do work together for God’s good for us, and that HE is allowing or sometimes even sending the trials to BUILD US (edification) – then we can understand how we can thank God in and for all things.
Even, especially, the annoying, painful, stressful, “horrible” times of our lives. God is with us, at all times and is working His plan in us, at all times, for all things, in all things – and that is how and why we can say “thank you, Father, that I have you here even when it seems like you’re not answering my prayers, even though the pain is not subsiding, even though there has been death in my family – I know you’re here with me. And knowing that, I have peace and gratitude. And I trust whatever you’re doing, because I know you love me, and you ARE love personified. And as I go through all this, I will be a more effective priest and comforter for others. So thank you, dear Father. Help me, strengthen me and others going through pain, and help us see you in all of this.”
A hard time to say thank you – but we do, and we always must – for it’s working out a great plan beyond our wildest dreams. And the PEACE of mind we receive when we say “thank you” even in our most painful times, is just amazing. It boils down to absolutely trusting our Creator. It means having FAITH in him, no matter what we go through.
In the months and years ahead, and in times of tribulation, we will need to have this honed down real well. There’s more in the sermons on God’s Perfection that he’s building in us.