Thankful On Thursday

"Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow..." -Thomas Chisolm, 1923

Great Is Thy Faithfulness has always been my favorite hymn. Something about the idea of new mercies each morning and the unchanging nature of God strikes to the core of my being each time I hear it. It reminds me that no matter what changes, God remains constant and steadfast. It reminds me that I have strength for today and hope for tomorrow. And that is a good thing.

But can I be real for a minute?

In spite of my love for this hymn, I also experience doubt and frustration and anger toward God. The truth is, sometimes I don't like the way He runs the world and I convince myself that I'm probably better equipped to handle the job. For me, this indignation shows up strongest whenever I encounter the issue of child sexual abuse.

I read this article by Malcolm Gladwell on Monday, and I spent the next few hours in a downward spiral of anger, despair, and helplessness. I could not get past the fact that this one writer was able to so clearly identify this pattern of unspeakable evil in our society, while the God I profess faith in seemingly does nothing to prevent it. I fumed. I sobbed. I went to bed and didn't sleep. I struggled.

By God's grace, I have a husband who knows just how to speak to me when I find myself in this place of despair. He asks meticulous questions and tells me what he knows is the truth and encourages me not to give up. And then he usually takes me out for ice cream or a fancy coffee drink. 

I've also been blessed beyond measure by the wise counsel of an older woman who I pay to listen to me when I find myself in the darkest places of my mind. She prays for me and asks the Lord to give me wisdom and peace and she has this way of reassuring me that she has felt and thought everything I am feeling and thinking, and that it is okay to struggle.

Yesterday morning, Dann suggested that we read The Problem Of Pain by C.S. Lewis together. He had read it before and remembered that it helped him during a time of difficult struggle and questioning what God is up to when it seems He's nowhere to be found.

I felt like C.S. Lewis had punched me in the belly after I read this paragraph:

To ask whether the universe as we see it looks more like the work of a wise and good Creator or the work of chance, indifference, or malevolence, is to omit from the outset all the relevant factors in the religious problem. Christianity is not the conclusion of a philosophical debate on the origins of the universe: it is a catastrophic historical event following on the long spiritual preparation of humanity which I have described. It is not a system into which we have to fit the awkward fact of pain: it is itself one of the awkward facts which have to be fitted into any system we make. In a sense, it creates, rather than solves, the problem of pain, for pain would be no problem unless, side by side with our daily experiences of this painful world, we had received what we think a good assurance that ultimate reality is righteous and loving.

As I thought through what assurance I have that ultimate reality is righteous and loving, I began to picture the faces of friends who are teachers. Men and women I know who would do almost anything to protect the kids they work with each day. I saw the faces of all the parents I met when I was a teacher. I saw the faces of my own parents, who fought fiercely to protect me my whole life. I imagined an army of righteous and loving adults going to battle against those who would deceive their way into a community in order to commit evil against children. It was a gentle reminder that all is not lost simply because Malcolm Gladwell identified a pattern and wrote about it. 

So here's what I'm thankful for today:

I'm thankful for the struggle. I'm thankful for a mind and a free will and the ability to choose what I read and how I respond to what I see in the news. I'm thankful for the people in my life who know my deepest, darkest thoughts and love me anyway. I'm thankful for all the adults I know who put the well-being of children ahead of their own. I'm thankful for new mercies each morning and the fact that God is the same always. I'm thankful for the gift of grace, strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow.