Life in this sinful world can get pretty rough. Almost every day there is some trouble to face. Not a month goes by without us feeling some sadness in our hearts.
Christians are not immune to the hard knocks of life. We see this from the Bible. In its opening pages we read of murder in the very first Christian family. On the pages which follow we find a clear trail of tears left behind by God’s people.
It is not much different for us today. Sometimes life pushes us around too. Each of us can relate to David when he said, “I am weary with my groaning; All night I make my bed swim; I drench my couch with my tears” (Ps. 6:6).
But for all our bumps and bruises of body and heart, we can be thankful. Yes, you read the last sentence correctly. When hurt and heartache touch our lives, we can praise God. Listen to what our Lord says through St. Paul, ” . . . Give thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5:20).
Please note, the passage does not say, “Give thanks for everything that goes smoothly in your life.” No, it says “in all things give thanks.” Why? Because God has a loving purpose behind everything He
allows to happen to us, even the things that cause pain. All things work for the good of those who love God. When tough times come, we can be sure that God is working out some wonderful purpose in our lives.
As a pastor I have learned that adversity in my ministry has been a great blessing to my personal faith. There have been times where some looming problem has forced me to literally pray my way through an entire day. At these times I also find myself frantically reading my Bible for the comfort and strength I need to see me through dark days. What I find is that no day is truly dark with Jesus as my Lord and Savior. One passage of many that has been most comforting to me is found in Romans 8:32, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”
Because I am a great sinner I need troubles. I need troubles to get me back where I belong–close to the Word of God and on my knees in prayer. I’m thankful that God loves me enough not to let me wander too far from His side.
Trials serve not only to strengthen our faith in Christ, but they may also work to bring God’s kingdom to other sinners. Certainly it wasn’t a pleasant thing for the little Israelite girl in 2 Kings to be enslaved by the Syrians, yet through her troubles the great general Naaman was brought to trust in the only true and saving God (see 2 Kings 5).
The story is told of Betsie and Corrie Tenboom, two sisters who helped hide Jews from the Nazis during World War II. Eventually the two were caught and sent to a prison camp. By words and actions they boldly testified of their faith in Christ to the other prisoners and even to the guards. Although in dire circumstances, Betsie was always finding something new for which to thank the Lord. One day she asked Corrie to join her in thanking God for the lice which infested their clothing and beds. Corrie refused. She saw no purpose in thanking God for lice! “Please,” responded Betsie, “let’s thank God for the lice.” Worn down by her sister’s pleadings, Corrie reluctantly consented.
Not long afterwards it was discovered that the two could freely lead their fellow prisoners in Bible studies and prayers without being bothered by the prison guards. Why? The guards did not want to come into a barracks full of lice! Indeed, in all things God is to be praised!
As we gather with family and friends around a delicious meal this coming Thanksgiving Day, let’s remember to thank God for everything! In fact, it might well be that we should be especially thankful for that which is most hard and most unpleasant in our lives.
–Pastor Michael Wilke