God Is Good. Period.

Every year, as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, I see plenty of people I know and respect making lists of things they are thankful for. I understand their thinking and I share their gratefulness for all our “first world” blessings. No doubt about the fact that all of us owe some thanks for those things we mostly take for granted.

Because of the religious origins of Thanksgiving in this country, I also understand why our thankfulness is many times tied to God. Within the greater Christian community, being grateful seems to come with the parallel understanding that the blessings we get are a part of the healthy, wealthy, prosperous, and happy life that God truly wants for us. Our “best life now,” you might say. When things go our way, we are quick to add-on the heartfelt announcement that “God is so good!”

Being one that has his antennae up to detect cultural assumptions that find their way into the church, it occurred to me that this might just be one of them. After all, we are called to have “the mind of Christ,” and it was Christ who said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

So, if Jesus promised us we would have trouble:

  • I’m wondering why would expect the Christian life to be without it …
  • I’m wondering why we think we deserve “our best life now” …
  • I’m wondering why we would think the words we speak have the power to make things turn out the way we desire them to be, when He never said any such thing …
  • I’m wondering why we’re always trying to figure out “God’s will for our lives” when He has already told us very clearly and very simply that “[His] will is that we be sanctified.”

To be sanctified … or to be healthy, wealthy, prosperous, and happy? That is the question.

In light of these reflections, I decided to make a Thanksgiving list of my own. Here it is:

  • I’m thankful for separation from family and friends because it makes me cherish the time they’re with me even more …
  • I’m thankful for suffering because it challenges those who witness it to show compassion
  • I’m thankful for poverty because it pleads with us to be charitable
  • I’m thankful for fear because it teaches us courage …
  • I’m thankful for unanswered prayer because it requires us to be patient …
  • I’m thankful for sickness because it exposes how helpless we really are …
  • I’m thankful for loneliness because it forces us to realize that we are not the center of the universe
  • I’m thankful for evil because it gives us a way to recognize the perfect Goodness of a Perfect God …

This may seem like a weird list but I made it because I believe her when Joni Eareckson Tada says that the accident that broke her neck and has left her a quadriplegic since she was a teenager “was the best thing that ever happened to her” because it forced her to seek and find God.

I believe it when C. S. Lewis says that “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

I believe that if James, the brother of Jesus can be beaten, taken to the top of the Jerusalem Temple and thrown off, then stoned to death because he survived the fall; if Peter can endure the sufferings we learn of in his epistles and then die crucified upside down; if Paul can be beaten, tortured and left for dead in a ditch outside Lystra, stoned, imprisoned and beheaded on a Roman street, I believe him when he writes that, “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope …” (Romans 5:3-4)

If suffering was good enough for the apostles, I’m not sure why it isn’t good enough for me.

Of course, this is all easy to say sitting here in my oversized, first-world office and it may be that sooner or later I will be forced to practice what it is so very easy for me to preach. But I consider these ideas now so that if/when the suffering starts, I won’t be trying to wrestle with its purpose from inside the storm.

Jesus Christ sweated blood, was flogged and beaten mercilessly and then nailed to a cross to hang there until he died. If being sanctified means being made more like Christ, I think we should stop thinking that suffering is not for us, and start thinking about what it really means to be sanctified.

No one likes pain but I am thankful for it because I have to trust that God’s purpose in this life has Him at the center of it, not me. His purpose for this creation is to annihilate suffering, and evil, and pain … forever. Part of that purpose is that I need to develop the eternal virtues of charity, compassion, patience, courage and humility (among others).

So this Thanksgiving, I say we start telling the truth. Instead of just expecting the pleasure, let’s start anticipating the pain with full knowledge of the reason we are called to endure it — our sanctification. Our transformation to be like Christ. And then let us remember that regardless of our circumstances, we know they have an eternal purpose, that we are a part of it, that it is bigger than us, and that God is good whether we’re personally doing well at the moment or not.

And let’s be thankful for that too.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Subscribe to True Horizon

Signup now and receive an email once I publish new content.

Bi-weekly (at most!) email updates. Unsubscribe anytime.

Powered by Optin Forms

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive, off-topic, or not helpful to the discussion.

Leave a Reply