The rain comes, dousing the earth with blessing and, at the same time, darkness. In fact, “rain” is typically used as a metaphor for adverse experiences. “When it rains, it pours.” No tragic scene is more complete than with an individual weeping bitterly in the rain. But for centuries, humanity has praised God for the rain.
Rain gives life, as God gives life. Rain nourishes the earth and fuels its growth and maturity. The rain is a paradoxical reflection of how God can bring about good and bad at the same time. Therefore, because God can do this, we can legitimately “give thanks in all circumstances,” even when our circumstances are heart-rending.
How can we be thankful in adversity or pain?
Paul (someone quite familiar with suffering) tells us to be thankful in all circumstances. Clearly, then, this implies that it’s not our circumstances that we ought to find our thankfulness in. Then, if not our circumstances, then what?
Enter Jesus Christ. Jesus not only shows us how to accomplish this daring feat, he is the accomplishment.
Thursday, April 2nd, AD 33: Jesus leads his followers to an upper room to share the last meal he will consume before facing capital punishment by the Romans. His heart was heavy with burden, as ours can often be. His fate was sure. Death was lurking, crouching at the door, desiring him. Yet in this weighty reality, Jesus takes the bread representing his body, broke it, and gave thanks.
Clearly, Jesus wasn’t connecting his current circumstance to his thankfulness. He knew his fate. But for Jesus, his thankfulness (and ours should be as well) came from the future reality of God’s sure, unchanging promises. And this is where God wants our perspective: on things above.
We can be sure that all of God’s promises to us are “yes.” Jesus fully trusted that His Father would render these promises a reality to him, and therefore nothing in his hellish circumstances could steal his joy. He gave thanks over bread (his body) that would be broken. Can you imagine that kind of security and peace? His thankfulness was an expression of trust in future promises.
There is purpose in our troubles
“People are born for trouble as surely as sparks fly upward” – Job 5:7.
Jesus infallibly tells us, “In this world you will have trouble” – John 16:33. No doubt, adversity will come and consume our thoughts and hearts with burden, suffering, shame, and sorrow. No one controls the rain.
But when we gaze through the storm and look out the other side, we find the Sun waiting for us.
And nothing is more Christ-exalting than someone who maintains the joy of their salvation even through trying times. It’s precisely in our ill-circumstances that we have a unique opportunity to point to Christ. By keeping our joy, we model Jesus the night before he was put to death.
Jesus gave thanks while symbolically breaking his own body, showing that he was about to give his life over to his enemies. Yet it was the joy set before him, not his current situation, that gave him the power to “be thankful in all circumstances.”
“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14