'Thanks has a twin brother called blame!'
Posted by Chris Scott (Senior Leader Bridge Church)
In the last couple of blogs, we have seen that an ‘attitude of gratitude’ makes a huge difference to the way we interpret the things that happen to us, and/or around us. God is always good of course, but our view of his goodness can be easily distorted, or even obscured altogether, if the lens we look through is not faith based, but feeling based.
We have looked at 1 Thess 5:18 before, but I want to pick up something else that Paul says here ‘Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus’
There is a word here that is very easy to misread, and therefore easy to misunderstand. It may be very subtle and simple, but it’s extremely significant. Paul uses the word ‘in’ not the word ‘for’. There it is! Powerful stuff, right?
Seriously though, it’s as simple as that. Paul says be thankful IN every situation, not FOR every situation. And let me tell you there is a world of difference between the two.
'Thanks' has a twin brother called ‘blame’. They are different ends of the same stick of course, but they operate on the same basis. Think about it; with both of them, we attribute the cause of something impacting our life to someone else. Now if it’s good, then we thank them for it, but if it’s bad, we blame them for it. Blame is just negative thanks!
For example, I am sure we have all rolled our eyes and remarked sarcastically ‘oh thanks a lot!!’ when someone has dumped you in the nasty stuff! You may say 'thanks' but of course we all know you are apportioning blame. We thank or blame dependent on whether we perceive what has happened is favourable or not. That’s why it feels so counter-intuitive to be thankful, when inside you just want to blame everyone for what's going wrong in your life right now!
But Paul offers a third solution. He says we don't have to respond either way because of what has happened, but we can respond in the best way despite what has happened. He says we can, and should, thank him IN the midst of our trial. Why? Because the primary reason we offer any thanks to God is not for what he has or hasn’t done, but because of who he is! Our praise and worship of God is not like an apple a day that keeps bad things at bay. Circumstances do not determine whether God is to be thanked or not.
God is worthy of our thanks because he is good, not because things are good!
If God is worthy of our thanks and praise when things are going great, then he is equally worthy when the wheels have come off. Sure, that ‘feels’ much harder to do, but when has God ever expected us to live by our feelings or do what’s easy. Never!
The Bible says we ‘live by faith not by sight’. In other words, we live by the truth we choose to believe about God, not based on how we feel about the things that are happening to us.
This is not easy. In fact it can often feel impossible. It’s important to say here, that God is not expecting us to deny our pain. That would be deceitful. He is not saying our pain is not real or trivial. Make no mistake, God understands every single struggle and trial you are facing. He will never dismiss, ignore or underestimate our pain, but he does call us to trust him in the midst of it, and to know that his goodness doesn’t change despite the changing climate of life around us.
Most of our problems come when we interpret the goodness of God through the lens of our circumstances. When we attribute the reason for our pain to God, and conclude that he must lack understanding of what we are experiencing, or worse still that he just doesn't care. It's in such moments we begin to ask those destructive and doubt-inducing questions like ‘why me?’ ‘I don’t deserve this’ or ‘maybe my situation doesn't matter to God?’ These questions are totally understandable, and are what makes us human, but if we don’t choose to change our lens then they will ultimately lead us down a dark and dangerous rabbit warren. I know it’s extremely hard to change our lens in those dark moments, but it is still a choice we have the power to make. By the way, as a sdie thought, don’t you find it ironic that we seldom exercise the same deep soul-searching quest for answers about the good things that happen for no reason! We just accept them as a blessing! Wonder why that is?
The brutal truth is this. We don’t understand why things happen the way they do, and neither can we always make sense of, or rationalise why bad things happen for no good reason. It’s just life, I guess. But we can choose to live with the absolute certainty that God is good all the time (I hear you echo…'all the time God is good!'). When we do, we can reach beyond our limited understanding, and find the grace and peace we need to trust the one who knows it all!
We all love a good party. Except for one; the pity party! Being thankful in every situation will help us to avoid pity parties. We may not be able to control what we see going on around us, but we can choose what type of glasses we will wear. Lenses that focus on the goodness and faithfulness of God or lenses that focus on the pain and the unfairness of it all!
If all you see are people around you, or a God, who should be blamed for your pain, then simply change your glasses.