November 15, 2013 - Serious Struggles

Be thankful for everything. Everything? Really? Is that actually in the Bible? Because how can I be thankful for something that is so difficult to endure? To put it another way, how can I be thankful for what seems to be contrary to God’s will—my suffering?

I can’t imagine God expecting me to be happy when I am forced to walk a path so painful that I wonder at times if I will live through it—I mean, actually live through it. But is happy the same as thankful? No—it isn’t. It would be mockery to be happy while watching a child suffer a horrible injury, to see a family torn apart by unfaithfulness, or a wife die an agonizing death from cancer.

We are instructed in scripture to be thankful, not necessarily happy in everything. One can be thankful in the midst of mourning, at the bedside of someone we love, or as we struggle with our own infirmities. In Ephesians 5:20-21 we read,

Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ

To always give thanks, and to do so for everything is indeed a challenge … at least at first. But this isn’t negotiable. It’s a clear instruction for how we are to live our lives day in and day out. Scripture confirms this when Ephesians 5 refers to always and for everything. We are all familiar with Philippians 4:5b-7,

The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, 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 understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Offering prayer and supplication in all situations is not enough. We also must give thanks—or have a thankful spirit even when the road looks extremely difficult or impossible. We can’t expect to have the peace of God guard our hearts and minds if we are following only part of His instructions.

His power is released within us as we offer our praise to Him in the midst of tragedy. This displays our love for Him and our trust in Him, regardless of what we see with our eyes. We must remember that this world is not our home. We have a great hope and a future that Jeremiah 29:11 promises. But it’s not here—it’s there. 2 Corinthians 4:18 speaks to this,

… As we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

We are not promised an easy road in this life—or a safe one. We are promised difficulties. 2 Timothy 3:1 begins,

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.

Many years ago I learned that God expects for us to be thankful in everything, but I still fail from time to time … okay—I fail often. But I know that it is His will for me to have a spirit of praise, because He requires my complete, uncompromising trust.

When Gwen first became ill I struggled horribly. But God continued to pour Himself into us and encourage us, and we knew that His plan was perfect.

I celebrate Gwen’s life, our marriage, and even her death. I know that may sound irreverent, but it’s just the opposite. I not only feel that God was in control of all that happened, I believe that He chose Gwen for this journey. God has a plan—He will reach the entire world with His Gospel for His glory, as He should.

I have said in the past that if God took Gwen down such a painful path for the salvation of one person, it was worth it—to me and to her. Since the writing of the book, there has been an outpouring of testimonies from those whose lives have been changed as a result of God’s faithfulness in the life of one woman who refused to let the foe of cancer win over her faith.

I am thankful, even in the midst of the pain—thankful for what God is doing—thankful that He is in control, and I am thankful that He is allowing me to be part of His great plan. I may not be good at it yet, but I’m learning.

Question: Do you believe we are to be thankful in all things? What does that look like in your life?  Add a comment below.