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Giving Thanks… Or Not

When Gabby Douglas, 16 years old, won a gold medal in the Olympics, she made the sweetest comment. “It is everything I thought it would be; being the Olympic champion, it definitely is an amazing feeling. And I give all the glory to God. It’s kind of a win-win situation. The glory goes up to him and the blessings fall down on me“. Bold is my emphasis. HuffPost Religion posted her comment on FB and asked “what do you think about athletes publicly praising God?”. I am assuming that her comment either pulled some heart strings, or struck some nerves, because as of this morning, there were over 20,000 replies to that question. I am paraphrasing here, but one of those replies was “why would your God care about a girl in the Olympics when there are kids dying in other countries from lack of food, water and health care?”

And when Marie from A Miniature Clay Pot wrote So You Still Think God is a Merciful God? after the movie theater shooting in Colorado, the responses were overwhelmingly positive. (it appears that the comments have all been removed, probably because she has been inundated with responses) The comments that stand out most in my mind though, were the comments of criticism. Some people couldn’t believe that in the aftermath of tragedy that she would or SHOULD be thankful to God. “Why don’t you ask the families of the dead how thankful they are?” was just ONE of the comments I saw.

I am thankful for everything in my life. I am thankful that we don’t lack food, water or nutrition, but my heart breaks, because there are people that do. I am thankful that so many people survived the Colorado shooting, but my heart grieves for the 12 that didn’t. My heart is big enough to contain both emotions. I can give thanks for all I have and I can grieve for all the things others don’t have. However, I do not feel guilty for my blessings. I do not feel guilty for the gifts that God has instilled in me. I may doubt those gifts or blessings sometimes. I may not use them as intended, but I do not feel guilt. I have said for a long time that blessings flow through me. When I am using my blessings or gifts for the glory of God, He is pleased.

Here’s the thing, God is big enough for all of it. I think He is big enough to care about it ALL. He cares about Gabby and her accomplishments, and He also cares about the starving kids in the world. That’s why He put people like us in the world! Not so we could shake our fist and say “where are you, God? Why are you letting this happen?”. Not at all. We should be saying “Lord, I’ve been blessed, use me to help others. I’m here”. And we should allow Him to use us!

Marie has every reason to be thankful that her life was spared. It certainly doesn’t mean that she isn’t grieved for the lives that were lost. In the midst of tragedy, one of MY greatest coping skills is thankfulness. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. There are those of us who believe it and live it.

There should be no condemnation when thanks is given. How does criticizing a thankful person bring a dead person back to life (it doesn’t) or bring food, water and nutrition to starving people (it also doesn’t)? Being thankful for what we have and allowing God to use us and our blessings is what brings change to the world. I have absolutely never regretted having a thankful heart. There have been times I have wondered “why me? Why, God, have you blessed me so much, when there is so much suffering in the world?”. I think Ann Voskamp said it best when after a Compassion bloggers trip she said “God gives the world enough of what it needs. He just doesn’t distribute it”. This is where we come in.

Gabby and Marie are not wrong for being thankful. We should all strive to live with thankful hearts. None of us should feel guilt for what we have. (haven’t you ever heard that guilt doesn’t come from God?!) There will always be tragedy and sadness in our broken world, but there will always be praise and thankfulness in my heart. I pray the same for all of us.