On Being Truly Thankful

What is it to be thankful? We stop at this time of year and give thanks for all of our good gifts as well we should (Phil. 4:6). When was the last time in the midst of a calamity you saw someone thanking God that tragedy had interupted their lives?

Following is a true story taken from one of the better books on the subject of suffering

“While playing softball, my friend John Franklin, then a healthy thirty-nine-year-old, developed a headache and neck pain, so he took himself out of the game. By the time the game finished, he needed help walking. Taken to the hospital, John became completely paralyzed and unable to speak. Soon he was breathing with a ventilator. John spent seven weeks in ICU and another four months in the hospital. He underwent speech therapy, then a few years of occupational and physical therapy. Now, twenty-two years later, John remains restricted to a wheelchair. Doctors never discovered why it happened. John’s youngest son, six years old when his father became disabled, wrote me, “I remember always being so mad that God did this to him. One day I asked my dad why he wasn’t angry. He said, ‘Why should I accept good from God and not evil?’ I think my jaw dropped and at the time I was angry at him for saying that. But that experience has forever shaped my view of God and evil.” (a)

Consider the biblical story of Job at the end of the first chapter of the providential glimpse into his character:

Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said:

“ Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD.” In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong. -Job 1:20,21

Clearly Job goes through much pain and suffering with no idea why. Yet at the height of his initial sense of loss his words show gratitude, without cursing or accusations against his God.

It is easy to be thankful for the good gifts and circumstances of our lives. It requires effort and faith to recognize that the difficult circumstances and calamities of life will also serve a purpose. I am certainly not at the point where I can be thankful when a calamity has afflicted those I care about. I believe I am at the point I can stop before making any charges against my God or question in the slightest His sovereignty and control of my circumstances for my ultimate good.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 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, – I Pet 1:6,7

(a) Alcorn, Randy (2009-09-15). If God Is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil (p. 349). Multnomah Books. Kindle Edition.