Recently I read an extraordinarily inspiring post titled: “Give Thanks in Suffering,” in About Christianity @ www.about.com. I thought I would share it here.
The post reminds me of my struggles with an autoimmune disease. I was backed into a corner with two choices. Either I continue to lean on my understanding and die, or trust God and live. I chose the latter.
Giving thanks when you’re suffering seems like an idea so far-fetched nobody could take it seriously, yet that is exactly what God asks us to do.
The apostle Paul, who knew more than his share of sorrow, counseled his young apprentice Timothy to do just that:
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 5:16-18, NIV)
Paul understood the spiritual benefit of giving thanks when you’re hurting. It takes your focus off self and puts it on God. But how, in the middle of our pain, can we possibly give thanks?
Let the Holy Spirit Speak for You
Paul was well aware of what he could do. He knew his missionary work was far beyond his natural strength, so he relied heavily on the power of the Holy Spirit within him.
It’s the same with us. Only when we stop struggling and surrender to God can we allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through us. When we become a conduit for the Spirit’s power, God helps us do impossible things, like give thanks even when we’re hurting.
Humanly speaking, you may not see anything you can be grateful for now. Your circumstances are miserable, and you’re desperately praying they will change. God hears you. In a very real sense, though, you are focusing on the bigness of your circumstances and not on the bigness of God. God is all-powerful. He may allow your situation to continue, but know this: God is in control, not your circumstances.
I tell you this, not by theory but by my own painful past. When I was unemployed for 18 months, it didn’t seem God was in control. When important relationships fell apart, I couldn’t understand. When my father died in 1995, I felt lost.
I had cancer in 1976. I was 25 years old and could not give thanks. In 2011 when I had cancer again, I was able to give thanks to God, not for cancer, of course, but for his steady, loving hand through it all. The difference was that I was able to look back and see that no matter what happened to me in the past, God was with me, and he brought me through it.
As you give yourself to God, he will help you through this hard time you are in now. One of God’s goals for you is to make you totally dependent on him. The more you depend on him and sense his support, the more you will want to give thanks.
One Thing Satan Hates
If there’s one thing Satan hates, it’s when believers trust God. Satan encourages us to trust our emotions instead. He wants us to put our faith in fear, worry, depression, and doubt.
Jesus Christ encountered this many times in his own disciples. He told them not to be afraid, but to believe. Negative emotions are so strong that they skew our judgment. We forget it is God who is reliable, not our feelings.
That’s why, when you’re hurting, it’s wise to read the Bible. You may not feel like it. It may be the last thing you want to do, and it’s the last thing Satan wants you to do, but again, there’s an important reason to. It brings your focus away from your emotions and back onto God.
There is power in God’s Word to fend off Satan’s attacks and power to remind you of God’s love for you. When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, Jesus drove him off by quoting Scripture. Our emotions can lie to us. The Bible never does.
When you’re going through trouble, Satan wants you to blame God. In the middle of Job’s worst trials, even his wife said to him, “Curse God and die.” (Job 2:9, NIV) Later, Job showed extraordinary faith when he promised, “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him; ” (Job 13:15a, NIV)
Your hope is in God in this life and the next. Never forget that.
Doing What We Don’t Want to Do
Giving thanks when you’re hurting is like one of those tasks we don’t like to do. Perhaps dieting or a trip to the dentist, but it’s immensely more important because it brings you into God’s will for you. Obeying God is not always easy, but it is always worthwhile.
We seldom grow more intimate with God during good times. Pain has a way of drawing us close to him, making God so real we feel we can reach out and touch him.
You don’t have to give thanks for the thing afflicting you, but you can be grateful for God’s faithful presence. When you approach it that way, you’ll find that thanking God when you’re hurting does make perfect sense.
Not many people grow old gracefully. Some folks are sunny throughout their lives. There are others who were sunny earlier on, but It seems the nearer they get to the end of their lives the less sunny they have become. Many of these folks have all the toys they have ever wanted, but for some strange reason they are not happy. These poor souls cannot carry on a conversation without barking and growling at the other person.
Over the last 10 years, I have had to deal with at least one person per week who have displayed what I would like to call a “Nasty Disposition”. I used to get offended, but as the problem occur more and more, I realize it is not personal. It is who they have become, and they cannot do anything about it.
Hence, I thought about how cruel this world is. If we are not careful, it will chew us up and spit us out-leaving many miserable and aloof.
Therefore, I thank God for Jesus. He has the answer for every question and the solution for every problem. If I continue to hold on to the promises of God, and most importantly, His unchanging hand, then my life will be sunny to the end. Hopefully, my testimony then will be similar to one apostle gave at the end of his life: ” I have fought the good fight I have finished the race I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing”(2 Timothy 4:7-8).
When you have Jesus in your life, heaven does sound sweet all the time.
The new life is not a myth, and it is not like going on a low-fat or low carbs diet. Neither is it like setting a New Year Resolution. If, anything, it is part spiritual and part physical. The spiritual — is completely out of the control of the flesh, but the physical–is like a ball in your court. Therefore, whatever we say and do will say a lot about the life we live.
Naturally, the heavenly father carved out a new life for us when He sent His Son to die. Sadly, though, none of us can embrace this new life until we get rid of the old life. In essence, the old life died with Christ, but many of us continue to hold on to its memories that we find it difficult to embrace the new life.
In 2 Corinthians 5:17, the apostle Paul hinted at the new life when he writes, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new”.
Of course, Paul was speaking from experience. We have read about his dramatic conversion on the Damascus road. The Bible states that Paul then Saul was breathing out threatening and slaughter against the disciples. He even went to the high priest requesting authorization to go down to Damascus and bound anyone he finds spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, all that furor and hatred would change once Paul experienced the new life. (Read Acts 9:1-19, Acts 22:6-21, Acts 26:12-18).
Therefore, the apostle knew first hand that without the new life we are like the unruly Israelite who could not shake the memories of the meat they ate in Egypt and Lot’s wife who hung on to the memories of Sodom to her death. Still, if anyone doubted Paul’s thesis, then He need not look further than the encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus in John 3:1-8.
Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one can do the signs you are doing, unless God is with him.”
“How can someone be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to the flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
Everybody has a thorn in the flesh. One that you desperately want to remove. Ironically, you have asked God to take it away several times, but nothing happens. It seems God did not hear you. So, you begin to wonder whether He is listening to you at all. Before long doubt and fear set in and you find yourself going backward instead of forward.
Let me be clear, a persistent thorn in the flesh is not a sign that your heavenly father does not care about your well-being, neither does it mean that He did not hear your request. However, It could mean that He has already acted upon your request, but you have refused to accept His proposal. It could also mean that the thorn is the execution stake you need to pick up daily to follow Jesus.
The Apostle Paul struggled with a thorn in his flesh too. He had petitioned God to remove the thorn three times, but every time he did, the answer was always the same, “My grace is enough for you”, (Read 2 Corinthians 12:9). Of course, like all of us who suffered from thorns in our flesh, the beloved Apostle, was not happy with the answer God gave him, but after three, tries he realized he was fighting a losing battle.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, as I reflect on the thorn in my flesh, I am reminded with absolute assurance that the closer I get to God is the less concerned I am about a thorn in my flesh. Further, the thorn in my flesh may be one thing that keep me grounded, resolute and steadfast in pressing toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ.
There is an old fable that goes like this: “From the poor house to king’s house”. That is kind of what the apostle Paul meant when he said, “You are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are His child, God has made you also an heir” Galatians 4:7).
Since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, God’s eternal plan has always been to adopt us into His family. He does this by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us that He finds immense pleasure doing this, (Read Ephesians 1:5). That is the reason He sent Jesus to break the Yoke that binds us.
I thank God that I am not desperate, alone, insecure, unwanted and without an identity. I am an heir of God and co-heir with Christ. God has adopted me into His family because He wants me to be a part of His own. He wants me to have the same rights and privileges that belong to a son who has come into His inheritance.
I am not the outsider, the world thinks I am. I am a child of a King who owns everything. I have His love, attention, presence, acceptance, and His name. I own what He owns. His riches are mine, His other children are my brothers and sisters and His home is where I belong.