One of the most difficult commands of the Bible?
“Give thanks in all circumstances.” 1 Thess. 5:18
Against the daunting backdrop of 2020, this is a real stretch.
The usual joys of life – concerts, live sports, plays – all gone. Personal liberties – church attendance, gathering as families, hugging and shaking hands – voluntarily surrendered in the name of disease control. And the most divisive presidential election in history drags on, with no end in sight.
Give thanks in all circumstances, eh?
As is always the case, your view of 2020 depends on your perspective – whether you adopt the world’s, or God’s.
Corrie ten Boom in her book The Hiding Place tells a wonderful story about fleas that illustrates my point. I won’t repeat the whole thing here, but I will point you to Vance Christie’s great blog where he takes the time to retell Corrie’s story about why God allowed their concentration camp barracks to have a flea infestation (read Vance’s blog entry here).
I’m not saying that God will tell you why 2020 happened like it did as plainly he showed Corrie and her sister Betsie the role of the lowly flea in those barracks. I’m not saying he won’t, either. For many of you, he probably will.
But if you take God at his Word, he already has.
“In the world, you will have trouble, but take heart: I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
So before you accuse me of reading the Bible with rose-colored glasses, I have one more story to tell.
In early October, my son with Down syndrome contracted COVID. He fought bravely at home for a while, never really complaining. But on day five, his oxygen saturations had fallen below 80, and we took him to the hospital, where he went directly to the ICU. His life hung in the balance for two terrible nights, and that’s when my wife and I reached for another of God’s promises:
“Fear not, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10
His righteous right hand took many forms that week, and the weeks that followed. It was the group of 15 teenagers gathered in the freezing cold outside the hospital entrance, pleading with God for Stephen’s life. It was the hospital caregivers, the doctors and nurses who put their personal safety on the line to bring my very sick son through the darkest time of his life, every day, at all hours of the day and night, for an entire harrowing week. God strengthened us through the many care packages and meals that friends brought to the hospital, and to our home. And He upheld us with the flood of letters from complete strangers around the country (orchestrated by his sister’s friend), who all told Stephen that they loved him, and were praying for his recovery.
As we enter into our country’s observance of Thanksgiving as a national holiday next week, we indeed give thanks to God for 2020. His grace is sufficient for us.