My stepdaughter’s father, a devoted Moslem, has this constant response for most things I greet him about. It does not matter what the live event is, his usual response is “In all things we thank God”. When his father died and I greeted him, his response was the same. When he was appointed as a member of one world body on IT security, his response was still the same. In essence while he is a Moslem, he seems to still be able to follow the injunction of Apostle Paul to the Thessalonians that we must give thanks in all circumstances. “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” – 1 Thessalonians 5:18. I took note of this because I know for a fact that it is one of the hardest instructions to follow.
Ordinarily, no one thinks about thanking God in times of grief. The most common emotion is “why me?”. If we pause to think about it a little more, we realize there is no why, because the question has always been “when me?”. The truth is it is quite difficult to escape this life without having experienced grief. Our prayer is that we can go through whatever situation led to our grief and come out of it much stronger. However, if ever there is an odd couple of events in our lives, it is gratitude and grief. How on earth can I give thanks when my heart is so troubled because of the great loss just experienced. It is like the case of the Israelites who were carted away to captivity and were still asked to sing the Lord’s song (Psalms 137:3). They wondered how they could sing the Lord’s song in a strange land (Psalms 137:4). When we grief, we are in the strange land of our lives. When we grief, our hearts and our joys are essentially held captive by the events of our grief. King Solomon says there is “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:4). We tend to show gratitude when we are happy and joyful. So, we interpret King Solomon’s statement to mean that the times of grief and joy do not go together. And we also live our interpretation. But the Word of God says, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”. If God says this then grief and gratitude must not be as mutually exclusive as we think.
We must stop viewing grief and gratitude as mutually exclusive emotions. In His Sermon on the Mount our Lord Jesus Christ made a statement that confirmed we can show gratitude to God during our moments of grief. He said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). The Lord is saying here that, those who grieve are blessed and they are comforted. Even if we cannot thank God for anything else, let us thank God for His blessings, let us thank God for His comfort. His blessings and comfort deserve our gratitude. In our time of grief, only the Lord gives us the kind of comfort we need. He never stops loving us, He never stops to lead us, rather He shows up, calls us by our names, and lets us know that it shall be well. Even while we are broken, His word continues to speak to us that our afflictions are but for a moment and achieves for us an eternal weight of glory that surpasses the afflictions (2 Corinthians 4:17). We can thank God for that. We can thank God for His words of encouragement and we can thank Him for the promises of a better tomorrow.
It is hard not to grieve when we lose loved ones, and it is okay to grieve anyway because God is not annoyed by our sorrow. In fact, it seems that He is attracted to it because it creates a window of opportunity for us to enter God’s presence for some desired intimacy. Our God shows up in the crucible of our emotion. Some folks will say a child of God should not grieve; I say, let us go ahead and grieve, but let us grieve with hope. As we invite our good Lord into our grief and gratitude, He teaches us how these seemingly mutually exclusive emotions can coexist when we need it most. In moments of grief, gratitude helps to lift us up and open our hearts to the immense possibilities of God’s goodness and grace.
No matter what we walk through in this life, we are called to give thanks, to praise His holy name, and to worship Him. To know God and make Him known. To glorify God and enjoy Him forever. So, we can grieve but we can also thank God for the memories of our loved ones. We can thank God for the life of faith they lived. We can thank God for His promises for us. We can thank God for what He is teaching us by walking through our trials and tribulations. We can thank God for the imperishable hope He gives us in the middle of our pain, knowing fully well that whether we are alive or dead we belong to the Him. But above all we can thank God that even amid our grieve, His comforting presence is ever felt amongst us. So, in all things, be it joy or sadness, we can thank God. To His name be all glory, honor, and majesty now and forevermore.
March 28, 2020 – Pastor Simbo Odunaiya