“...always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.” Ephesians 5:20 (NASV)
“...in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I Thessalonians 5:18 (NASV)
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 (NASV)
[The italics are all mine.]
OK... we’re supposed to give thanks for everything but does that really mean EVERYTHING? I thought about this several weeks ago when it rained and someone said we were going to have a few days of “bad weather.” I love rain and really miss big thunderstorms here in the the California summers. And we NEEDED rain. So... is rain “bad”?
This made me think about some friends going through “bad” times. Are they really bad or is that just how we perceive them?
And I have to tell you, I’ve shed a few tears this week just reading through some of your blogs and hearing what kind of things you’re facing: loss of job, loss of home, health problems, etc.
Do we thank God when we lose our job, get a cut in hours or pay, lose a loved one to death or sin, get sick, or have an accident? What about cancer? Do we thank God for that? I work in an oncology office and see everyday what cancer does to people and their families. That’s hard to be thankful for.
I had a friend who found out last year that she had breast cancer. I haven’t seen her as often as I once did but she’s kept us up to date on her treatment and she has been an inspiration to me. Even on her weakest days she sent emails asking how she could pray for us because praying was about the only thing she could do. Here’s a portion of one of her emails that I saved because it was such a blessing to me. I asked her if I could share a portion of it with you. I hope this can bless someone else, too.
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2-4).
The gals at the Look Good…Feel Better seminar I attended were talking about how cancer had changed their lives, and I mentioned how cancer has been a huge blessing to me. All of a sudden the room got very quiet and everyone stared at me. I felt compelled to continue and said how it had taught me a lot about myself and my family, increased my faith, taught me what is important in life, and brought me greater clarity and focus. The room was still deadly quite, and then one of the cosmologists changed the subject.
Afterwards, I got to thinking about this awkward moment and the truth of what I blurted out. Cancer has blessed me tremendously. It’s not something I’ve enjoyed, suffering never is, and it’s definitely something I never want to go through again, Still, it’s taught me lessons that I don’t think I could have learned in any other way. The verse at the top says to “count it all joy when you fall into various trials”; not if, when. All of us will suffer at some point in our lives; it’s what we receive or take from the suffering that matters.
Apparently we commemorate John Calvin’s 500th birthday this month, and I’ve read a couple of bios about him in various Christian magazines. I never realized how much the man suffered. His only child died at 22 days, his beloved wife died after only 8 1/2 years of marriage, he had malaria, migraine headaches (think—no aspirin), kidney stones (whoa!), hemorrhoids (in the days before cars—he had to ride a horse), stomach pains, insomnia, and the article says “and much besides.”
When people experience severe suffering, like my cancer or Calvin’s maladies, it’s tempting to ask Why? or Why me? Calvin said this is the wrong question, and a better one is What for? What lesson does the Lord want us to learn? What part of our selfish character does He wish to chip away? What kind of empathy does He want us to develop (2 Cor. 1:4)? Suffering builds character. Even the Perfect Man had to learn obedience through suffering (Heb. 5:8). Why should we expect anything less?
Suffering isn’t a punishment from God; it just is. It’s a result of a fallen world, a consequence of sin. Yes, God can relieve suffering, and yes, He never gives us more than we can handle (1 Cor 10:13), but He is not unjust to allow us to suffer.
Suffering is a great mystery and not a lot of fun. But it is our lot (Job 5:7). That being the case, let’s not waste it.
Ann again... This ought to give you something to think about at least today. What is the “worst” thing that happened to you this year? Did you write that in your Thanksgiving journal? I’ll leave you with a quote from Job,
“Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?”