1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
The Spring of 2017 brought some very difficult circumstances for me. My brother Randy was shot and killed on the morning of April 26th in Penticton, BC. Randy struggled with addiction and homelessness for many years, and in some ways I had expected what I felt like was the inevitable, but nothing prepares a person to receive that kind of devastating news.
I was unexpectedly thrown into pain just as I was entering into a season of joy.
Let me explain.
Randy died three days before four members in our family graduated with various degrees from thee different institutions. Ten days after his death my youngest son Benjamin married Annie. Four days after the wedding we held a funeral. After Randy’s death, my mother had a significant and rapid health crisis that had me running to appointments several times a week in neighbouring Abbotsford. (We live in Langley.) Our daughter Robyn would go on to marry Dylan in early July.
I have never had life pile up on me so dramatically and I was constantly shifting between grief and joy.
Paul says to be thankful in all circumstances. Was I supposed to thank God for this tragedy? No. Scripture does not say be thankful for all things… it says be thankful in all things.
Thankfulness is about perspective. It is a posture that says whatever comes towards us in our relationships, circumstances and responsibilities, two truths remain:
God is sovereign and God is Good!
God sovereignty means that absolutely nothing that happens in the universe is outside of God’s influence and authority. John Piper says, “There are no limits to God’s rule. This is part of what it means to be God. He is sovereign over the whole world, and everything that happens in it. He is never helpless, never frustrated, never at a loss. And in Christ, God’s awesome, sovereign providence is the place we feel most reverent, most secure, most free.” I may not “get it” and I may rail against it, but I ultimately rest in the assurance that that He is indeed in control. He is working out His plan and purposes in my life.
When we face difficulties, it can be hard to see the goodness of God. I realize that I often attached His goodness to “pleasant outcomes.” I saw God as good when things were working out in my life. But is He still good when things are falling apart?
What I am learning is this:
God is not good because we have a pain free life; God is good because whatever we walk through, He comes near us.
I have the craziest stories of “God coming near” after Randy’s death. Friends rallied around me and helped me in so many practical ways. When I felt like I was walking through mud, my best friend came alongside and helped me pull off a beautiful wedding for my daughter. I had supernatural “God moments” where it was like He “flipped a switch” and I was able to experience incredible joy.
While I would never wish my experience on anyone else, these past 18 months have been filled with unexpected gifts. I have been brought to a place of gratefulness and it is not because I am “super-spiritual” (believe me) but because I have experienced God in amazing ways. I have had a fresh revelation of His grace, His joy and His peace. When I came to the end of myself, I discovered that he was there in all His strength and fullness and He was enough.
What are you facing today?
Have you received a diagnosis that is completely messing up your plan? Maybe you are facing uncertainty at work, wondering how you will support yourself… or perhaps you are grieving a loved one. (I am so sorry.)
As someone who has walked some deep waters, let me say this to you:
Don’t focus on the circumstances you face, but focus rather on God… Look for His promises and lean into His character. Watch to see how He comes near to you because coming near is what He does!
He is sovereign and He is good.