“There’s a song at church that I just can’t sing,” Jennifer confessed as she took a sip of tea. The sunshine warmed our backs at our outdoor table at Starbucks, and I relished this opportunity to sit and chat with my dear friend.
“The song says, ‘I will thank You for the pain,’ and I can’t honestly say that right now,” she continued. On a recent Sunday morning, Jennifer said she had to leave the sanctuary during worship, overcome with conflicting emotions. Her five-year-old son Samuel has been bravely battling chemotherapy and radiation treatments for the cancer that’s wreaking havoc on his little body. “How can I be thankful that Samuel is nauseated and vomiting and screaming in pain? How can I thank God for my little boy’s suffering?”
Jennifer reflected that suffering is not God’s desire for His children. Cancer is a result of sin in this world, and God hates sin. “I choose to give thanks in the midst of Samuel’s cancer,” Jennifer said, “but right now I’m not thankful FOR his cancer.”
When the Israelites were suffering as slaves under the cruelty of Pharoah in Egypt, God’s heart was grieved. Exodus 3:7-8 tells us of His response. “The Lord said, ‘I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them.’”
God sees our suffering, and it breaks His heart. Giving thanks in the midst of suffering doesn’t mean we have to be happy that it happened. It doesn’t mean we are jumping up and down saying, “Yippee! I get to suffer and be in pain! I’m so thankful!” But we’re told in I Thessalonians 5:18 to give thanks in the midst of our suffering. “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Giving thanks is a choice. It’s not based on a feeling. It’s a sacrifice. It’s a statement of faith in God’s sovereignty, when we don’t see any good in the situation. It’s choosing to believe that God is good, God is with us, and God will use our pain for His glory. Can you choose to give a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Lord today?
“Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High. Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me.” Psalm 50:14-15