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The Difficult Thanks

November 8, 2010

Perhaps the most moving moment of the Relevant conference I recently attended was on Friday night as Angie Smith asked all the women in the room who had lost a child to miscarriage, still birth, or early infant death to stand.   Silence except for the sliding of chairs against the carpet and women throughout the room stood, heads bowed, hearts heavy.  Not one table I saw was left untouched … few eyes were dry, no heart unmoved.

Looking around my church recently I was aware of how many of those present have faced profound loss due to the economy … many who have lost jobs, lost their homes.  Friends who have had to move in with family because they have no other choices.  Men who have taken jobs they hate simply to be able to provide, even meagerly, for their families.  Women who have gone back to work to make it possible for their families to barely survive.

We’ll be traveling this week with our senior adults … many are widows, finishing out their days on earth without the one to whom they pledged their lives.  Some who have been traveling with us for eight years will not be with us this year … their health rendering them unable to go.

Loss … we will all experience loss – in many forms and various intensities – throughout our lives. As we consider biblical thanksgiving, true gratitude, this month on Scripture Dig, it is imperative that we realize the necessity of thanksgiving in times of sorrow and loss.

And so, we look at Job.   He had it all … family, wealth, position, influence.  And in one afternoon, all was lost.  All that he had loved, all he had held dear … gone.  Left with a wife who was bitter and cynical and friends who were skeptical and harsh.

In those moments immediately following the devastating news of his profound loss, we see this:

Then Job rose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped.

And he said, “Naked I cam from my mother’s womb and naked I shall return.  The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.

~ Job 1:20-22, ESV

In these verses I find three keys to giving  the difficult thanks:

  1. Don’t diminish the loss. (v. 20)  Job grieved!  He was visibly devastated … he acknowledged his hurt.  He didn’t try to pretend away the pain.  There is nothing spiritual about denying loss … in fact, doing so can result in a greater bitterness in our own hearts and create harm to our testimony of God’s faithfulness.
  2. Do desire to worship. (v. 21)   Job recognized his need to connect with God!  Immediately after acknowledging his grief, he turned to the One who could comfort him.  And in his worship, he was clear in his awareness that God is in control of all things … and that He can be trusted.  “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
  3. Don’t disregard faith. (v. 22)   Job chose to respond to his loss in faith … “Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.”  Living out our faith can be difficult in the best of circumstances, but even more so when we are pressed on all sides and faced with grief, loss, sorrow, and pain.  But Job’s example is one of continuing to walk in obedience and trusting that the God who had provided all good gifts before would continue to provide for him even in the dark times.

Job’s story continues with his wife’s admonition to, “Curse God and die” (Job 2:9) and his friend’s disparaging words about his need for confession … but at the the end of his story, even when he has questioned God and listened to his friends’ condemnation, though he had heard God’s thundering voice answering his own plea for understanding,  Job’s confession is one of humility:

Then Job answered the Lord and said, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted … I have uttered what I did not understand … I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”  {from Job 42:1-6, ESV, emphasis added}

How do we give the difficult thanks?  Recognize the goodness of God. When life doesn’t make sense, God is good.  When life is hard, God is good.  When life hurts, God is good.  When thanksgiving seems impossible, God is good.  In all things, at all times, in all ways … God is good.

When have you been challenged to give the difficult thanks?

Recommended Listening:

Blessed Be Your Name, Matt Redmon … My favorite part of this song is, “Every blessing You pour out I’ll turn back to praise.  And when the darkness closes in still I will say, Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Praise You in This Storm, Casting Crowns … Beautiful, poignant reminder that we are never removed from His loving care.  “As your mercy falls, I raise my hands and praise the God who gives and takes away.”

Recommended Reading:

Our own Kristi Stephens has written a beautiful series on Job.  I highly encourage you to take some time to read her posts and she examines, “How Could a Good God …”

12 Comments leave one →
  1. November 8, 2010 5:10 am

    Thank you, I needed this.

  2. November 8, 2010 6:19 am

    Oh my, this post made me weep. I shared it on fb & my good morning girls because my heart had been so effected, God IS good ALL the time, encephalitis comes – God IS good, trials come-GOD IS good, mumma fears: God IS good- why? It is WHO He is & we can RELY on that. No infection, seizure,dr, medicine or mumma’s tears can change that!!
    Thank you soooo much for this post, on this day in this very season in my life , God IS indeed good.
    Hugs sweet sister again you spoke into my soul when I was aching and showed me Him, I’m grateful for you xxoo

  3. November 8, 2010 10:43 am

    1 Thessalonians 5:18 is one of my favorite Scriptures and it came to my mind while reading this post. My pastor preached on this passage just one week after losing our first child during my 4th month of pregnancy. That Sabbath Day in November of 2000 was a major breakthrough for me because I began to give thanks IN the circumstance, not FOR the circumstance. I thanked God for loving me, comforting me, and carrying me through. I thanked Him for His faithfulness and his trustworthiness.

    1 Thess. 5:18 (ESV) give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

  4. November 8, 2010 1:13 pm

    Lovely Post! What an awesome reminder to give Thanks, in all circumstances. Thanks for the 3 keys Teri Lynn! Great insight.

  5. Julie Sanders permalink
    November 8, 2010 3:17 pm

    So very true and so very specific. I was just meditating on the words of “Blessed be Your Name” this morning. You summarized these 3 keys in such a simple and clear way. I think that when I look around me, I am always reminded that I am not the only one who hurts and that there is evidence all around that God remains good – regardless.

  6. November 9, 2010 12:21 am

    All three of those keys to expressing gratitude in difficult times are so essential and so poignant. I think that “Don’t diminish the loss” is important… so often, many of us may feel like we are supposed to “grin and bear it” and just act like nothing bothers us, but Job shows us that is not the case. We need to grieve. We need to deal with those feelings. Then we also need to worship and trust in God’s constant goodness.

    Thank you for this post.

  7. November 12, 2010 4:29 pm

    As we sang that song (Blessed Be Your Name) Saturday night at Relevant, I couldn’t stop the tears. I knew God had blessed me beyond measure, even in the heartache I was feeling. I still struggle with some of the things surrounding my Mom’s death, but I am so thankful to the Lord for blessing me the way he has, even in loss.

    Beautiful post, Teri Lynne!


  1. Thankful in all things? « Scripture Dig
  2. Even in hard times? Really? « Scripture Dig
  3. A Guide to Gratitude « Scripture Dig
  4. The Difficult Thanks, part 2 « Scripture Dig
  5. The Difficult Thanks

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