There are thousands of mutilated bodies of believers in the Middle East. People in Paris are mourning the murders of loved ones after the attacks by ISIS. How can they possibly thank God in the midst of such suffering?
I have had a lot of years spent in bitterness and unspeakable sadness and for me the topic of Thanksgiving was a mockery. God spitting in my face and then insisting that I thank him for it. And I know that there are many of you--perhaps secretly--who harbor such thoughts.
People have lost loved ones on Thanksgiving, even those in my closest family. How can they be expected to celebrate the provision and goodness and the abundance with which God has blessed us? Mothers who, as Ann Voskamp relayed in her blog post today, have laid infants in the cold ground and are then expected to carry on as if the ripping out of their hearts had not just happened wonder how can they possibly go on? How can they, in years to come, celebrate a holiday of gratitude when sorrow has not diminished?
How can I, in daily pain and agony of mind and body, thank the Lord and trust him with my future? A phrase came to me today as I was conversing some related ideas with a friend via chat, and that was: "The underbelly of Grace." I have come to see God as being much bigger and far less comprehensible than my former view of God, holding me, by a spider web over a lake of fire.
"How does one forgive God?"asked my friend this morning after I suggested to him that he might benefit from doing just that.To forgive God is to accept his Goodness in ALL things and to accept his "right" to do as he desires in your life without your questioning it. He is God. Period. But that is only a comfort if you accept that he is ALWAYS good. We are his creation. He calls the shots....but how can we surrender to his hands when we know it will involve pain?
A patient can ask a surgeon to lance his infection or to repair a part that is not working --but first he must sign a "RELEASE"--that gives the doctor permission to do whatever is necessary to make him well. It means to accept the risk of pain for the purpose of better good in the future. I would propose to you that we need to give God the "release" to perform his surgery in our lives with the understanding that ALL surgery hurts. But it also heals. There is a reason we call God "The Great Physician"---it is not only a name to be used in terms of asking for physical healing. We trust our physicians. We do not expect them to needlessly hurt us. So with God.
There are things we do not understand...and never will understand ---maybe even after we arrive in Heaven. God may not choose to answer to us. However we will deeply comprehend his "right" to do so and we will know without question his deep fervent love for each of us. And we will no longer say "why?" Because pain no longer has the ability to hurt us. Our losses will be regained--and if not? We can lean on God's compassion and mercy...and we will be able to see how the suffering of our past only shines and gleams with the radiance of God's perfect foresight and complete knowledge, tempered by his limitless grace. This is the underbelly of grace. This is our approaching Him with open willing hands for him to remove the things we cling to and to refill them with his gifts of love and peace.
"Thanksgiving in all things accepts the deep mystery of God through everything."
A Holy Experience
I do not write this as a goody goody or as someone unmoved by pain. I write it from the experience of a life filled with every conceivable anguish. I write it remembering hours upon hours of self mutilations; door upon locked door, with me on the inside and the world on the other side; teeth-gritting, scream emitting suffering of unspeakable physical pain; the loneliness of an empty house and another day spent not seeing or speaking to anyone.; I write it as a survivor of a troubled marriage; I write it remembering people I've loved and lost. I am IN this furnace with you. But there is another walking in this furnace as well....in fact HE suffered the furnace of God's plans more than any one of us ever will. And he persevered, accepted the cup of suffering from the hand of his Father, and he yielded himself to the hatred of the people he was dying to save.
God does not ask us to go through any sorrow that he himself has not already suffered. That is a thought worth meditation.
This Thanksgiving consider these thoughts. Let them take deep root in your heart. And if you need to "forgive God" then do so knowing that the depths of his love are deeper than the wells of your pain.