Charles Spurgeon, a nineteenth century British pastor, was well acquainted with suffering. Debilitating gout, rheumatism, neuropathy, kidney inflammation, painful slander, recurring depression – all were a part of his life. Yet in physical, spiritual and emotional suffering, Spurgeon chose to trust God’s heart. He said concerning the suffering that touched his life:
“God is too good to be unkind and He is too wise to be mistaken. And when we cannot trace His hand, we must trust His heart.”
“Our infirmities become the black velvet on which the diamond of God’s love glitters all the more brightly.”
Many of those who read my blog posts have been diagnosed with a wide variety of chronic illnesses. If you fall into this group, you too are well acquainted with suffering. Even if you don’t deal with the daily challenges of chronic illness, you still likely have your own story of suffering. We all long for days when suffering will no longer be a part of our lives. Unfortunately, suffering, pain, illness, sorrow, and death – all are a part of life on this earth which is under the curse of sin.
Revelation 21:4 speaks of a time when this will no longer be true, when God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore.” While as Christians we have this to look forward to, it is a future hope, one that will be fulfilled in the new heaven and the new earth. Life on this earth will never be totally free of suffering for any of us.
As the introductory quote for this chapter says, giving thanks for trials of all kinds – for suffering, for pain, for loneliness, for loss of loved ones, for unkind words spoken to us that hurt deeply – is “a very difficult duty.” Yet this is what the Lord asks of us. Giving thanks to God in the midst of our difficult circumstances is our declaration to those around us and to the spiritual forces of wickedness that God is good, no matter what happens.
Scripture clearly calls for us to give thanks even when to do so is a sacrifice.
“Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High… The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!” Psalm 50:14, 23
Gratitude is costly. It is a sacrifice. It is something we admire in the live of those we see as spiritual “superheroes” – people like Joni Eareckson Tada or Elisabeth Elliot or Corrie ten Boom. But as Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth says, “The capacity to respond to adversity with faith and gratitude is not limited to spiritual ‘superheroes’ and biblical characters.” We too have been given the ability to “endure the worst life has to offer and still come up ” thankful.” And when we chose to do this, we glorify God and experience His salvation and deliverance.
Sometimes, when we choose a grateful attitude, God’s will is to change our situation. Other times, His will isn’t to change our circumstances but instead to change us in the midst of the situation we would love to see changed. Ultimately, anything that reminds us of our need for God is, in the truest sense, a blessing. While an attitude of gratitude doesn’t always result in a change in our situation, it does put us in a position to experience the good God has for us in the midst of the difficulties that touch our lives.
Nancy concludes, “the only thing more debilitating than what they’re going through” – than what we’re going through – “would be going through it ungratefully.” Those who say “No” to resentment and ingratitude, who look for the evidence of God’s goodness even in the presence of excruciating pain and incredible loss, are the ones who survive and even thrive spiritually. Will you choose to be one who says “Yes” to a walk of gratefulness and trust that God is good, no matter what you are currently facing?