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How Can We Be Thankful When There Seems to Be Nothing?

God does not promise us that life will be easy, but he does promise us peace and joy beyond our circumstances. When we take our eyes off our circumstances and focus on him, his peace can be ours. There is always something to be thankful to God for.

Nov 15, 2021
How Can We Be Thankful When There Seems to Be Nothing?

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

We can’t even imagine what they must have felt. What they must have thought. Their world as they had known it — as they had envisioned the future — had come crashing down around them in a matter of a few hours.

All they had sacrificed. They had given up everything for him. Their lives; their families; their friends and relationships; their careers. What now? Where do we go from here?

Three years. For three long years, they had followed him. Often traveling miles and miles. All the time they had devoted to him — all down the drain. All for naught. It was over.

Nothing to Sunday Morning Joy

It happened on a Friday. The worst event in history, and they were in the middle of it. On Friday night, they were still in shock. They couldn’t believe it had happened. But Saturday, oh goodness Saturday was the worst.

They had already abandoned him after he was arrested. All those who had sworn such a short time before that they would die for him fled in fear. Now they too were being hunted by the authorities and had to hide, else suffer the same execution, the same death.

Saturday was the worst. Grief over the loss of their friend. Sorrow. Guilt. Shame. Fear. Dread of what the future would hold — the now unknown future.

The man Jesus was going to lead them. He was their teacher, their rabbi. He was going to lead the charge to free Israel from Roman occupation and domination. And now? He was gone.

Then came Sunday morning. Then came indescribable, unimaginable joy. Celebration! All was right again. No — all was far, far better than it had ever been.

Today, we give thanks to God for the suffering and death of his Son, without which we would be lost. The worst event in history indeed had become the greatest event in history — one by which all of mankind was saved!

Nothing and the Patience of Job

Our lives are full of Saturdays, aren’t they? Full of days that happen upon us without an invite. Full of trials and tribulations — sometimes daily. At the end of those days, while we lie awake in bed, the whys of life seem to come screaming at us. Why? Why did this happen? Why now? Why me?

I cannot think of a lesson from which we can learn more about suffering than the story of Job. Considered by most scholars to be the oldest book in the Bible, Job is a wealthy man who has a large family and extensive flocks. He avoids evil and is called blameless and upright.

God tells Satan about the goodness of Job, but Satan debates that Job is only good because God has blessed him abundantly. Satan’s words to God — “oh sure, while everything is perfect, he worships you, but let him suffer and then see how he reacts.”

Satan challenges, if given permission to make Job suffer, Job would then turn and curse God. God then gives Satan permission to torment Job to prove his bold claim, with the condition that Job’s life must be spared in the process.

In a matter of one day, Job loses everything to marauders and natural causes — his livestock, his servants, and the worst of all, he has lost all ten of his children. Job then tears his clothes and shaves his head — signs of mourning.

Yet, through it all, Job continues to bless God — despite his wife’s urging for Job to curse God, as well as the accusations of his “friends” that the suffering must be all Job’s fault, due to some “unconfessed sin and wickedness.”

Job does not lose his faith in God, even claiming there is a “witness” and a “redeemer” in heaven who will defend him. Yet, Job grows impatient with continued suffering. He too asks questions — and he wants answers.

Job wishes he had never been born and wants to confront God on how could a righteous man be allowed to suffer so?

Suddenly, God interrupts it all — calling out from a whirlwind, demanding Job to stand, be brave and answer him, if he can. God’s questions then point out just how little Job knows of the things of God. Job’s only answer is to acknowledge God’s unlimited power and the limitations of human knowledge.

Ultimately, God rebukes Job’s friends for spewing out poor and theologically unsound advice. Yet, God forgives them in answer to Job’s prayers. God returns Job’s health and gives him new children and twice as much property as before — and a long life.

We can learn much about suffering from Job.

  • Bad things indeed happen to good people.
  • In the midst of suffering, we must never lose our hope in God.
  • Our loved ones and friends may fail us, but God never will.
  • Even in silence, even when he seems distant, God is with us — in the midst of all our storms.
  • Suffering is not a punishment for sin. 

In other words, God knows best.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heaven are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

Promised Troubles

Jesus left us many promises in his time here on earth. One of those was a promise that we would suffer in this life. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Take heart. I have overcome the world.

But still…why? Why does God allow the troubles, the suffering, to happen? And how are we to respond?

This world is clearly filled with evil. Scripture teaches us that the evil one is the “ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient” (Ephesians 2:2).

Jesus himself referred to Satan as “the prince of this world” (John 12:31). And when Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, promising to give him all the kingdoms of the world (Matthew 4:1-11) never once did Jesus deny that it was Satan’s to give.

Yes — as with Job, suffering must and does pass through the hands of God. But as Joseph told his brothers, “What you meant for evil, God intended for good” (Genesis 50:20). And so, God intends what we suffer here for good.

When we suffer, we are left with two choices: we can shake our fists and curse God, or we can move closer to him, taking refuge in his protection. No matter what we may think or wish or hope for — humans will not grow closer to God as a result of prosperity.

The opposite is often true — when we are prosperous, we often forget that we need God and that prosperity was his gift to us.

Yet, while we are immersed in the darkness, it is difficult to see what good may come from what we are going through — and thus can’t wait for the light. It is so easy to say we trust God — yet in the next breath question his knowledge, his power, and his goodness.

And while we know in our hearts that this life offers highs and lows, ups and downs — while we are experiencing the lows, it is difficult to remember that suffering comes to pass, it does not come to stay.

As difficult as it is, Paul admonishes that we are to give thanks, not for all circumstances, but rather in all circumstances.

King David put it this way, “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5). When the darkness of night has passed, our joy will emerge with the light. We may yet then see God’s plan, or we may not.

Always Something, Never Nothing

The Old Testament prophet Habakkuk said this,

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior (3:16-17).

There is always something to be thankful to God for.

We thank God for his Son, who gave himself for us so that we could be redeemed and enter a relationship with the Father (John 3:16).

God gives us hope in the present — not natural hope, which can disappoint, but the certainty of hope in him, which never lets us down. We have complete faith in his promises for us (Numbers 23:19, Romans 8:28).

We give thanks for the gift of his Holy Spirit, who dwells within us each and every day — to lead us, and guide us, and protect us (John 14:16, Romans 8:9).

We give thanks for our weaknesses — because God’s power is perfected in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

We give thanks that every day is a new day. We have a Father of grace whose mercies begin new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23).

God does not promise us that life will be easy, but he does promise us peace and joy beyond our circumstances. When we take our eyes off our circumstances and focus on him, his peace can be ours (John 14:27).

The promise of Sunday morning joy is always just ahead of us.

For further reading:

23 Thankful Bible Verses for Expressing Gratitude to God

Thanksgiving: The Power of a Thankful Heart

How Can We Give Thanks in All Things?

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Lilas Gh

SWN authorGreg Grandchamp is the author of "In Pursuit of Truth, A Journey Begins" — an easy-to-read search that answers to most common questions about Jesus Christ. Was he real? Who did he claim to be? What did he teach? Greg is an everyday guy on the same journey as everyone else — in pursuit of truth. You can reach Greg by email [email protected]  and on Facebook

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