This past week some close friends of ours lost a baby. They were expecting twins but after the emergency C-section, only one twin made it. A few days later, I sat in a hospital room with the father and his precious little newborn baby; we talked about the grief and loss that they were experiencing. I was blown away. Through the anguish and the heartache he was still trying to see the light and give thanks to God.
Learning to give thanks is not always so easy. During times of grief and loss, the pain threatens to squelch any hopes for a thankful heart. Grief, in its essence, seems to deliver a certain brand of beauty that is shrouded in affliction. It’s in these raw times that we learn what it means to really give thanks; because living a generous life always comes at a great cost.
Being a “Christian” is wrapped up in the ability to be generous and live a content and thankful life in all circumstances. Like Paul said, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Embedded in these words is the secret of thankfulness—the secret of an overflowing life.
This passage is often misunderstood as a heroic mantra for overcoming insurmountable odds. But Paul didn’t mean that he could take on any task and complete it, like passing a killer exam, or building a house, or getting that raise; Paul was speaking directly to the simple art of being thankful and being content in the highs and lows of life. The "all things" that Paul is talking about has to do with the ability to trust God during times of desparation and times of abundance. In both, we are called to connect with the heart of God.
I sat down to talk with my friend at the hospital, on one side, his only newborn daughter slept—connected to a number of machines. On the other side, there was an empty crib, “This is where her sister should be,” he said. He then quoted a few verses that were close to him and said, “I know that God gives, and he takes away,” he paused, “blessed be the name of the Lord.” It wasn’t said lightly, there were tears in the eyes, but it was said as a powerful reminder that God is still there.
In times of loss, in times of need, and in times of plenty—God is there.
In that hospital room filled with premature babies, I learned a little more about the gut-wrenching art of thankfulness. Their holidays will be tainted with sorrow and the bittersweet reality of losing one child while celebrating the life of another, but their hearts are doing their best to pull through.
“Blessed be the name of the Lord,” it still rings in my head.
God gives us the grace to be thankful in every circumstance.
We are truly blessed.