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Thankful In ALL Circumstances

by Bob Russell

Reprint from www.bobrussell.org

     There is a lot not to like about the current worldwide shutdown. My hair is long, and my patience is short. I don’t like not being able to shake hands with friends or give hugs to family members. I don’t like golf courses with no holes or sports arenas with no activities. I don’t like congregational singing online, and I miss the energy of corporate worship. I don’t appreciate people with masks looking at me as if I’m endangering their grandchildren because I’m not wearing a mask while pumping gas at the service station.

     I’m tired of scientists contradicting what they said a month ago and still acting like no one should dare question their judgment. I’ve grown weary of politicians who obviously enjoy their newfound power and media personnel who specialize in hyperbole. I am disgusted with Christians who imitate the world’s nasty spirit on social media. I miss current sporting events on T.V., and I am really tired of syrupy Hallmark movies. (They all have the same plot! After watching another Hallmark movie with his wife, a friend of mine quips at the end, ‘Wow! I never saw that coming!”)  

     Most of all, I’m sickened by the constant reports of people confirmed sick and dying, and their family and friends left to mourn. And I grieve over people who have lost jobs and seeing pictures of long lines of people needing food.     I could gripe for a long time about the past six weeks, and I’m sure you could also. But the Bible says we’re to be thankful in all circumstances, and I have to admit there are some good things coming out of these unpleasant times. I see more dads in their yards playing with their kids, along with husbands and wives going for a walk in the middle of the afternoon. It seems to me the blossoms this spring have been more beautiful than I can ever remember seeing.

     I read reports of more online worshippers on Easter Sunday than attended services the year before. I’ve read tweets from preachers who are finding creative ways to shepherd their flocks. Church treasurers have reported their offerings are over budget. I’ve received phone calls from friends I haven’t heard from in a while saying, “I’m just checking up to make sure my older friends are okay.” 

      Most importantly, I think a lot of people have been spiritually humbled, and hearts are softened. Many have come to realize the things they’ve built their lives on are just sinking sand. When the economy collapses, scientists contradict each other, politicians are inept, sports and bars are shut down, we are reminded of the Biblical truth, “The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17).

     There is a story about a plane crash survivor marooned on a deserted island, who prayed earnestly that God would help him endure the elements and eventually spare his life. Every morning he knelt and prayed for God’s blessing as he worked diligently to prepare a suitable shelter that would sustain him in the upcoming winter season.       Weeks later, the shelter was completed, and he gave God thanks for answered prayer. But that night, lightning hit his makeshift cabin, and it burned completely to the ground. At that point, the distraught survivor broke down and wrestled with serious doubts. 

     How could God have let that happen? Why would God leave the impression of blessing every day and then allow a fire to dash his hopes to pieces? A few hours later, the captain of a passing ship motored up to shore and explained, ‘We saw your smoke signal and came to rescue you.”

     Sometimes in the midst of what seems a terrible tragedy, God is at work even though we don’t see it. In the midst of the storm, He comes to save us. As high as the heavens are above the earth so far are His ways higher than our ways.      Ours is not to understand what God is doing at the moment but to trust His ultimate goodness. There’s a song that says, “When you can’t see His hand, trust His heart.”

      There’s no doubt some terrible catastrophes are occurring in this troubling time. However, years from now, I anticipate hearing uplifting stories of people saved, marriages restored, fortunes made, addictions conquered, churches turned around, noble careers determined, and vaccines discovered as a result of what seems at present to be a terrible tragedy.  “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).


     Bob Russell is retired Senior Minister of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, KY.

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Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

2 corinthians 1:3-4