How can you be thankful when the Doctor tells you he has some concerns with your baby’s ultrasound image? How can you be thankful when, after further testing, you find out your baby has congenital heart defects that will require three significant procedures? How can you be thankful when you find out that not only does your baby have CHD, she has a serious intestinal blockage that could be life-threatening? How can you be thankful when your wife emergently goes into labor four weeks early? How can you be thankful when you spend the first five and a half months of your daughter’s life in a hospital during a global pandemic?
Thankfulness has been defined as “a feeling of being happy or grateful because of something.” In the world’s sense, thankfulness would be a far-fetched emotion in a situation like this, yet, despite this scenario being the reality for my family and I this past year, we have experienced thankfulness.
The promises of God are what have carried us through the difficulties of this past year and will continue to carry us through the trials that lay ahead. By no means have we been perfect. In fact, it has been a great battle between the flesh and the spirit. However, like Paul’s wrestling with the thorn in his flesh, we have been reminded that Christ’s grace is sufficient for us and His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
Maintaining Thankfulness in Suffering
By God’s grace alone, He has taught my wife and I many valuable lessons on remaining thankful in the midst of suffering, several of which I want to share here as a means of encouraging fellow sufferers to look to the One who suffered in our place.
Dive into the Psalms of Lament
The reality is that this world is broken and leaves us longing for something greater. The Psalms of Lament show us that it is ok to not be ok. God is not offended at our crying out, but actually invites us to be honest and vulnerable with Him in our deepest sorrows. As we cry out to Him, He is faithful to hear our prayers, meet us in our suffering, and give us His peace that surpasses understanding (Philippians 4:7). For that, we can be thankful.
Invite Others In
We, as believers, are meant to be in community with one another. We need fellow brothers and sisters to continually point us to the truths of God’s Word, to pray with and encourage us, and to laugh and cry with us. The Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:24-26, “But God has so composed the body…that there may be no division in the body, but that all members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” What a blessing it is to have the Body of Christ to walk with through the trials and triumphs of life. For that, we can be thankful.
Root Yourself in the Truths of God’s Word
This lesson is the most crucial part of remaining thankful through the trials of life. We have abundant access to the riches of God’s Word, the very words that have been divinely inspired by the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. It is imperative that we mine the depths of His truth and see the beauty and hope that we have in God.
An anchor text for me through this trying season has been Romans 8:18-30. Paul opens this section, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Similarly, in 2 Corinthians 4:17, Paul says, “This light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…” We can hold on to hope knowing that the sufferings in this mere glimmer of a life are far outweighed by the glories that await us in heaven for eternity.
We can rest assured that the character and nature of God is ultimately good. Paul continues in Romans 8:28 saying, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for Good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Even in the midst of suffering, God can work the hardships out for our good and His glory. We may not see or feel the good in it in the midst, but we can know that the ultimate good is being more conformed to Christ, deeper dependency on God and not ourselves, and having our minds fixed “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.” (2 Corinthians 4:18). For this, we can be thankful.
So Can We Be Thankful in the Midst of Suffering?
The brokenness and suffering of this world leaves us longing for something greater, longing for a hope in something beyond ourselves and our present circumstances. We serve a God who hears our cries and meets us in our pain and reminds us that He is with us. We have been given the gift of fellowship with brothers and sisters who sharpen us and point us to the truths of God’s Word. In Christ, we have a sure and steadfast hope (Hebrews 6:19) and His word is a lamp to our feet that guides us down the path of life (Psalm 119:105).
So can we be thankful in the midst of suffering? Yes, but it is not anything that we can do in and of ourselves. It is only by the grace of God that we can find hope in pain, joy in sadness, and peace in tribulation. Charles Spurgeon once said “I have learned to kiss the waves that throw me up against the Rock of Ages”. May we cling to this Rock as we continue to press on toward our goal, knowing He will be with us every step and has given us all we need in Him. It is in that hope that we can be thankful.