I recently heard about a missionary doctor named Helen Roseveare, who served in the Congo for about twenty years. She was single all of her life, and worked alone in a foreign culture, foregoing comforts and security, in order to serve Christ.
A quote that stuck out to me in one of her interviews was this: “Are you willing to thank [God] for the situation even if you never understand why?” She talks about the privilege that it was to suffer for Christ, and how she came to be thankful for her sufferings, even those as horrendous as being raped and beaten by soldiers, because it gave her greater influence among the people of the Congo, as she too had undergone suffering, as they had.
It was convicting to me to hear about her reflections, and I kept thinking, how often do I complain and give in to bitterness in the petty disappointments and inconveniences of life, when here is a woman who forsook all and endured suffering for the sake of Christ, and learned to give thanks for all of it. How much I still have to learn.
We are to give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for us (1 Thess 5:18). Wait, all circumstances? What about the people who drive us crazy, or the traffic jam, or delayed dreams, or even a scary diagnosis, or the loss of someone close to us? Even those ones? Yes.
See, it is tempting to think that our negative circumstances are random occurrences; a result of a fallen world, and that the positive ones are brought about by our own effort, or even good behavior. But the truth is, anything good is purely a gift of God; His grace to us; and the trials, in a way, are also His grace. For isn’t it in the sunny times that we forget about Him, and we live in our own self-absorbed state until the next crisis happens, when we remember to fall to our knees once again? Perhaps it is sometimes because of our pride that God uses our circumstances to humble us and remind us that we are not the ones in charge of our lives. Then other times, we are staggered by what seems like a cruel blow, one that we didn’t see coming, even when we were seeking Him all along. Yet none of it goes unseen and unnoticed by our loving Father.
1 Pet 1:6-7 says, ” In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
Our faith is proven and refined when trials come, and yet we are not to be shaken by them, for we are looking to the day when our faith will be made sight. We are to be thankful for trials because they loosen our grip on this world, and turn our gaze heavenward, to the day when we will see our Savior face to face. Give thanks, dear friend, even amidst the tears, for your Father knows what is best, and even though it may give Him sorrow to see you in pain, He loves you and will never leave you or forsake you, and He is ever close to the broken-hearted (Ps 34:18). He who saw fit to crush His own Son for the salvation of many, will He not also use your suffering for your good and His great glory?