"In everything give thanks..."
- I Thessalonians 5:18
My little granddaughter rushes up to me, satchel in hand, and tells me she's ready to "come your house 'cause I miss you," and I wonder if there is any joy in the world greater than that.
My son calls to tell me about his new job, and ask how I am. Another joy, that the once one-sided caring of parent for child is no longer true.
The scene shifts, and I recall playing the organ for two funerals in one month's time - one the grandchild of a friend, the other a Fort Gordon soldier four months younger than my son. I wonder again: What will Thanksgiving and Christmas be like this year for that grandmother, and the wife and young sons of the soldier? What would those days be like for me if I were the bereaved?
Where is God when tragedy strikes or, as author Philip Yancey has written, "Where is God When it Hurts?" Judging from the contents of my bookcase, few questions repeat themselves in print as often as those concerning sorrow and suffering.
I scan the titles: Catherine Marshall's, Light In My Darkest Night; Hold Me Up A Little Longer, Lord, by Marjorie Holmes; and Harold Myra's Is There A Place I Can Scream?
In Song For Sarah, author Paula D'Arcy tells the excruciating story of losing her husband and small child (Sarah) in a car accident. This author endures her darkest night, finds a place to scream, and eventually loses her anger at God - and the other driver - and writes her "Song" in memory of those she loved.
The slim, 124-page book, begun as a series of jubilant letters to her unborn child, took an unexpected turn when the not quite 2-year-old toddler died. By the time the letters end, the reader learns, Sarah's mother has found reason to sing again.
D'Arcy was young, still in her 20s and just out of college, yet barely six months after the accident her insightful questions led to profound answers.
"Isn't there some way of knowing what I know without going where I've been?" the grieving woman asks. But later that year, sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas, she had her answer.
"God never guaranteed anything to be permanent except his love. I made all the other conclusions."
To the glib Bible reader, in the face of tragedies like those that happened to D'Arcy, the Fort Gordon widow and my friend, telling the heartbroken to "give thanks for everything," seems like the height of cruelty. However, to the established reader, someone who has experienced bereavement or observed it in others, the words don't seem cruel at all.
Spliced together with the rest of Scripture, God seems to be saying: "Be thankful that in everything I am there with you. I'll strengthen you, comfort you, wipe away your tears, use you to comfort others, and fill your life with good things that rise above the bad."
When the Apostle Paul wrote in one of the New Testament epistles, "All things work together for the good of those who love him" (Romans 8:28), he wasn't posing some pat answer we Christians could memorize and quote to those going through difficult times. Neither did he say, "All things are good."
Again, attentive readers take heart and look for the good threads woven into the design of our sometimes pain-wracked lives. C.S. Lewis, for example, could say on the death of his wife, "The pain now is part of the happiness then." And Church Reformer, Martin Luther, concerning both his physical pain and spiritual persecution, could write, "We are not here to be happy. We have all eternity for that."
And for that, and the sons, grandchildren, and assorted joys we still have, let us give thanks this Thanksgiving season - and always.
Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to seabara at aol.com.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.