Yesterday, in worship, I was reminded once again of the central role gratitude plays in our walk of faith. A wonderful, vibrant, faith-filled woman of our congregation gave the message and spoke of her father’s terminal illness and subsequent passing. Through all of the devastation of the illness and the grief in his passing, she never gave up her faith, but rather, used her faith to see her through this most difficult time. She prayed for God’s strength, for his comfort, for his presence and received all of those gifts and more. It wasn’t easy, and she acknowledged that it was a long time before she felt real joy again, but even in the midst of despair she felt God’s presence with her.
In the 4th chapter of the book of Philippians Paul writes:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (4-7)
Whenever tragedy strikes our lives, when the road seems to be all uphill and we just want a flat stretch of land to run it is tempting to turn our hearts away from God. How can we be grateful for lives that are at times so full of pain and suffering and anxiety and the unknown? How can we be grateful when our hearts are broken, when our spirits are shattered, when our souls are downcast within us?
Something that struck me in our speaker’s story yesterday was a conversation she recalled with her father in which her father, shortly after his diagnosis, pondered the question that is so paramount when tragedy strikes: “Dear God, why me?” In looking over his life and all that he had experienced, all the joy he had received, his response was not why me but, “Why not me?” If we think we, as Christians, will live pain-free lives of holy bliss then we have not done much reading of the gospel. Jesus himself said we would suffer. We are not immune to the tragedies of life.
And yet, there is another promise to remember; the promise of peace. Jesus tells us that bad things will happen, yet he also tells us (through Paul) that the Spirit will bring us peace in our times of darkness. We have David’s exhortation in the 23rd Psalm that, “even when I walk through the darkness of death, God will be with me.” God will not abandon his people. And that is precisely what we have to be thankful for.
Blessings and Peace,