Spiritual formation surveys consistently point out that people say the single most powerful contributing factor to their spiritual growth is not transformational teaching, or being in a small group, or reading deep books. It was not energetic worship experiences, or finding meaningful ways to serve. It was suffering!
This past Thursday we celebrated the National Holiday of THANKSGIVING. In homes all over our nation some people stopped and maybe finished the sentence “I am most thankful for…”. That sentence usually ended with a reference to a special relationship, or a new job, or birth of a child, or some other kind of good blessing. But, in some very rare moments a few spoke words like, “I’m now grateful for my battle with cancer…”, or I’m grateful for that time in prison because…”, or “I’m grateful for the suffering that taught me that God can really be trusted.” They have a different kind of Thanksgiving!
The chance to trust God when trusting isn’t easy is only possible because certain truths remain unchanged: God remains sovereign, grace beats sin, prayers get heard, the Bible endures, heaven’s mercies spring up new every morning, the cross still testifies to the power of sacrificial love, the tomb is still empty, and the Kingdom that Jesus announced is still expanding in this broken world. God is still in the business of bringing something very, very good out of something very, very bad. This is how a different kind of Thanksgiving can exist.