This past week turned a lot of people’s lives upside down. As I watched the precious people of Haiti digging each other out of collapsed buildings, my hearts was wrenched out of my chest. Earlier in the week, I was scrolling through high-resolution photos of the devastation on the Boston Globe’s website and had the song “Oh You Bring” playing in the background. At first I was comforted by the words:
Oh You bring hope to the hopeless
And light to those in the darkness
And death to life
Now I’m alive
Oh You give peace to the restless
And joy to homes that are broken
I see You now
In You I’m found
And You opened the door for me
And You laid down
Your life to set me free
All that I am will serve You Lord
And You opened my eyes to see
All the wonder and awe of Christ in me
Jesus You’re everything I need
Oh You fill those who are empty
And rescue those in the valley
And through it all You calm my soul
Oh You find me in my weakness
And heal the wounds of my heartache
I worship You in spirit and truth
But then, the song made it around to the bridge:
All praise to You
Those words kept repeating over and over again, and I wanted to shut it off. I found myself wrestling with the idea of giving God glory and praise in the midst of tragedy. It was a huge heart check. I started asking some questions that are really hard to process. “Where is God in all of this?” “Is God really good?”
I ended having a lot of conversations with friends and with my parents about it. Sometimes when tragedy strikes, it’s difficult to stand up and definitively state, “God is good.” My heart wanted to say it, but my eyes were so stuck on the hurt and pain of so many thousands of people. I realized that when I’m confronted by heartache or tragedy, I’m fine with saying, “God help!” but I struggle to say, “God, thank you.” But that’s exactly what we’re supposed to do. Here’s what Paul told the church in I Thessalonians chapter 5:
16 Always be joyful. 17 Never stop praying. 18 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. (NLT)
Thankfulness is rooted in faith. Expressions of thankfulness to God serve as both an evidence of our faith in him as well a foundation upon which faith is built. The more we acknowledge God’s provision through thanksgiving, the more our faith in him is renewed and strengthened. To be thankful through trials is an evidence of unwavering faith in God.
So, how do we get there? How can you say “thank you” when what we see is calamity and what we feel is heartache? I think that we have to build our faith upon two scriptural promises about God: first that he is good and second that he is unchanging. As you start to look at these two things in scripture, you’ll find that they are very often mentioned in the same breath:
1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
His faithful love endures forever.
17 Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens.[a] He never changes or casts a shifting shadow
The truth is that sin is the greatest tragedy the universe has ever seen. Where God intended us to live every day wrapped up in his goodness and glory, sin created a wedge that separated us. But God in his perfect, unshakable goodness has chosen not to leave us separated from him. The sacrifice of Christ on the cross tore the curtain in the temple that separated us from his presence. Each day that we live brings us closer and closer to the day that we will be with him again, and what a glorious day that will be!
18 Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. 19 For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. 20 Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, 21 the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. 22 For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children,[j] including the new bodies he has promised us. 24 We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope[k] for it. 25 But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)
So, with hope in my heart, I look at the destruction in Haiti and long for the day of Christ’s return. It is in God’s goodness and steadfastness that I have hope, and because of it I can say, “God, thank you for loving me. Thank you for never changing.” From there, love and compassion leads to action. And that is why we volunteer and give and go and serve, that the people of Haiti might also find hope in the promise that even when everything else around shakes and crumbles, God is good and he never wavers.