It seems from the scriptures that our thanks to God should be an attitude toward Him, because of what He has done; especially in terms of creation; and then in terms of redemption (which it may be suggested… is a stage in the ongoing act of creation.)
But sometimes, although we are surrounded by the wonderful evidence of creation, it all seems quite distant from our personal experience. Although the meadow is full of wildflowers kissed by the sun and dripping with dew, it does nothing to alleviate our personal pain.
We have all heard the story of the little girl who when her mother tried to reassure her that God was with her, replied, “I know God loves me mommy, but, when it is thundering and lightning, I want someone with skin on to love me.” I think, though, that there comes a time when the reverse is true. Human comfort can only go so far and we come to the point that we need to be assured that God loves us and that He will never leave us nor forsake us.
At such a time, it is simply His presence with us that becomes the focus of our thanksgiving.
Are we thankful for the beauty of creation, for friends and family who love us, for perceived blessings and benefits and privileges…yes. But…
It occurs to me that our thanks is sometimes pretty conditional. Not based on the vastness of God’s plan…but on our own small role in that plan. A personal story by way of illustration:
Our dear little granddaughter at age three began to suffer from the sudden onset of a mysterious illness… Diabetes Insipitus. Missing the hormone which makes it possible to concentrate urine…. She was constantly insanely thirsty…and it went straight through her so she was urinating gallons of almost pure water. Many prayers were offered and medical expertise came to our aid providing an artificial hormone to help with the symptoms…but not an understanding of the first cause.
We gave thanks. Her immediate need and her suffering were alleviated.
It took almost three years of difficult investigation, frustration and prayers….but when the second hormone…her growth hormone… was knocked out, doctors had a diagnosis... Langerhans cell histiocytosis.
We gave thanks. A treatment plan could be put in place and while it wouldn’t restore what had been lost, the growth hormone could be replaced too when the treatment was completed…and treatment would arrest the progression of the disease to other less remediable areas such as organs…brain…bones.
It is with agony that we imagined our darling child undergoing the harsh treatment of chemo-therapy. Why should a perfect little angel, so beloved by all who know her, be subjected to a disease which required a full year of such a difficult regimen of treatment? Wonderfully, though, we find that she is strong, and such a beautifully happy personality that she has not seemed to suffer many of the ill effects of the surgery to implant the port nor the harsh chemicals received through that port.
We give thanks. She is happy and active and robust in spite of the serious nature of her disease and the toxic chemicals used to treat it.
That has been my pattern anyway… And I don’t think I’m alone in this. I’m thankful (only) for the good (little) things that happen.
But wait just one minute!
We all prayed for complete healing…for several years now. This is not healing! We know that God could have healed her! What’s wrong with God anyhow?
Am I in effect saying, ‘Well… this was the best He could do…at least He tried…at least He minimized the suffering...got a few things right.’
We can thank God for what he does right….and yell at Him when He lets us down…. We can say there really is no God after all and we are just kidding ourselves to think that He’s involved in our lives. Or we can accept the fact that He is here…with us…not only allowing, not only NOT intervening… but causing. As in the case of Lazarus…where Jesus stayed away exactly long enough to allow him to die…so He could accomplish a greater work than healing.
I guess I find myself circling around to the question of, “Does God love me?” Are the millions of people born since Adam simply fodder? Does He care about each individual one? Or will he just choose a few precious individuals and discard the rest?
Unless God cares about us as individuals, why are we expecting Him to take any kind of an active role in our practical lives? Could He just not pick out the pearls when they happen?
But if He cares about us as individuals, then it makes sense, that He is active in each of our lives. Doing what He deems necessary to bring us from wherever we start out in life…to what He is making of us. “Some through the fire, some through the flood, some through great danger but all through the blood.”
It is hard sometimes, but necessary, to learn to give thanks in ALL things…..because all things are of God. Someone that I’ve read a while back…D. Willard…W. Nee…can’t remember who....used the term “first cause” and it has stuck with me. The gist of it is that though we might be angry about something that has been done to us, we are more able to release our anger if we remember than whoever has wronged us, is only the secondary cause (the tool). God is the first cause. So even if we don’t understand…we are given an opportunity to lay down our anger, receive what has happened from God… and to live and react out of the resource of HIS life; rejoicing that He is taking an active part in our “progress” towards spiritual maturity.
So, whatever is happening, we can be thankful to our Father because we are His workmanship and when we finally learn that He loves us… we will be reconciled to Him and able to “bear all things believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things” knowing that “He who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it.” He loves me…and He is here….and for that, I am thankful.