Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18 NIV
Years ago at a church service, I heard an excellent sermon called, “Radical Gratitude.” I was reminded that God desires, and even deserves, great thanksgiving from us, because of who He is – the one true God - divine, holy, and just – and because He radically absolved our sin through His sacrificial service on the Cross.
Yet what I was left pondering after the message, was that I wanted to understand more fully about the ‘radical’ part of gratitude. Synonyms for the word ‘radical’ are ‘far-reaching’ and ‘thorough’. This got me thinking: how do we give God far-reaching and thorough gratitude - even in hard times? How do we make delicious, ‘sweet lemonade of praise’, when life seems to be only giving the ‘sourest of lemon afflictions’?
Radical gratitude that seems most complete and comprehensive is often most fully expressed in times of trouble. When life is going smoothly, my praise seems, well, less flavorful. But when life isn’t faring well is when the “radical” nature of worship seems more significant. In troubled times, I almost need an ‘elixir of praise’ to remember that God is in control, such as last year when my sister passed from cancer, or, thinking of other people’s losses, such as victims of mass shootings and communities ravished by disaster. Is radical gratitude even possible in these times? Will adding ‘sugar to the pitcher’ be enough? And if so, how?
Ann Voskamp, author of One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, suggested that in the midst of devastating loss and sorrow, we can express true gratitude by starting with the small and ordinary things of life. She implored to seek out ‘teaspoons of sugar’ all around us, such as being thankful for just enough eggs in the refrigerator to bake a cake, or enough milk in the carton for your children’s cereal. From practicing small acts of praise, gratitude can come more naturally in life’s hardships.
Taking it one step further in her book, The Broken Way, Voskamp contends that, “bad brokenness is broken by good brokenness.” She reasons that since Jesus himself suffered, and His suffering is the ultimate balm for ours, we can express radical gratitude because He’s been there, He’s walked the Golgotha road. He’s tasted affliction, swallowed death, and overcame. Since he ‘consumed’ our pain and shame, His “holy brokenness” restores ours. Yet in doing so, He offered radical praise. Breaking bread and pouring out wine with his disciples, He offered thanksgiving for what was to come. Thus, the ‘sweetest cup of salvation’ was achieved for us at the crushing of Christ’s own life, willingly, and with radical, complete, praise.
Is it possible for you to give radical praise or thanks even in your own suffering? Can you offer far reaching and thorough gratitude for difficult things? Can Jesus’s example, and His Word offer satisfaction and refreshment to your own bitter trials?
Father, we come before You today in a spirit of humility, asking for the wisdom to help us in circumstances that are difficult or we don’t understand. We ask for a measure of Your sweet grace today to allow us to praise You even when life seems bitter or sour. Father, show us what it means to radically give You thanks and praise, and to demonstrate far-reaching gratitude, even in life’s most difficult times. We pray in the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Bible Verses for Further Reflection:
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. Romans 5:3-4 NIV
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Romans 8:18 NIV
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 2 Corinthians 4:17 NIV