I first wrote this list of questions in October of 2016. At that time, the list was titled “7 Sticky Theological Questions to Ask Ourselves in the Wake of Hurricane Matthew (or Any Tragedy).” It was a Sunday morning then, and Hurricane Matthew had just torn through the Caribbean as a Category 5 storm, headed straight for my town. At the last minute, he’d wobbled slightly into the Atlantic, sparing us a direct hit.
Our church family had made their way through streets strewn with debris and downed power lines, praising the Lord that we were able to meet and worship together in our intact church building. At the same time, we were grieving losses of our sisters and brothers in Christ along the storm’s route who had suffered great loss and praying for those in the still-moving storm’s path. Thanksgiving and lament, praise and supplication, all bundled together.
I’ve been revisiting these questions in recent weeks, especially as we’ve moved toward the Thanksgiving holiday. First, for those currently enduring trials, this season can spark complicated emotions. Second, given the link between suffering and spiritual refinement, sometimes I’m not sure what I should actually be thankful for.
While I’m truly glad to be enjoying a measure of health and happiness with my friends and family this week, I’m aware that even when all is not as I would wish it to be, God is worthy of worship regardless.
7 Sticky Theological Questions to Ask as We Gather to Give Thanks
- Given the relationship between suffering and Christlikeness, is being spared suffering necessarily a good thing? (1 Peter 2:21-25)
- Why would the Father ever spare me suffering–especially since he did not spare his own Son? (Romans 8:31-32)
- Do I secretly believe that the people who weren’t spared deserve to suffer in a way that I do not? (Psalm 103:10)
- Have I devoted prayer and/or resources for the relief of my sisters and brothers who are currently suffering? (Galatians 6:10)
- If I really believe that death will usher me immediately into the presence of Yahweh, why am I so relieved to find myself still here? (Philippians 1:20-26)
- Am I praising God’s name because I have escaped suffering or because he is worthy of praise regardless? (Psalm 96)
- Would I still be praising his name if I had lost everything? (Job 1:21; Job 2:9-10)
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)
In Other News
For all of those celebrating Thanksgiving this week, I wish you a truly wonderful time of rest, reflection, and refreshment. May your turkey be succulent, your family dinners drama-free, and your coffee always within reach.
6 thoughts on “Counting All Joy: Thanksgiving, Lament, & 7 Sticky Theological Questions to Ask as We Gather to Give Thanks”
Thought-provoking questions, Ruth! God is worthy of praise, no matter our circumstances, but it’s so easy to fall into the habit of praising Him for the good and complaining about the suffering.
Isn’t that the truth?
Such great questions we should all consider, Ruth!
Good luck and God’s blessings
Good and hard and necessary questions. Thankful this wasn’t a 7 question test. I’d have failed. Blessings to you as you press on to the end of new draft this month!
Thank you, Mary. I wish you well in your writing also. And if these questions are a test, I’m also in trouble. I’m using them more like a study guide.