It’s funny how my first Bible memory verse has stuck with me all these –what? Sixty-four years or so?
I Thessalonians 5: 18. I can still see my dear mother sitting down and reading it to me and helping me begin to memorize it. I can still see her loving hands gently placing the black leather Bible into my lap and pointing at the verse. “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
As a six year old, I took this to mean, Be thankful for your blessings; it is God’s will for me to be grateful. But now, all these years later, I see it much differently. “Everything” emerges as the key word now. Everything that happens, both good and bad, is the will of God, and we are to be thankful for both the “good” and the “bad.”
It is only natural to learn to give thanks for the positive things that happens in our lives. This is good training for a child–to be grateful and thankful. It’s those hurtful things, those unkind words spoken perhaps by the one you love the most in this world–that is difficult to thank God for. Then there is the indifference and even the rejection by your friends and relatives of your new life in Christ. That particular pain pierces deep into your heart and is near impossible to be grateful for. And ultimately, the outright betrayal by the person you trusted the most takes you to the brink of despair. When we understand and can thank Yahweh for this betrayal, we will be growing and coming closer to being like our Savior, the Betrayed One.
If your betrayal has not arrived in your life yet, it will, if you are chosen by Yahweh to “be conformed to the image of His Son.” Make no mistake. Betrayal is on the menu. It is a bitter swill of anguish that we must swallow. The question is this: Are we able to drink of the same cup that Christ drank from? The supreme pain that only betrayal provides must come, for we must experience it in order to complete our spiritual maturation process. And not just experience it. We must overcome our first revulsion of it, and realize that it is ordained by God for our lives.
Why must we endure the pain of betrayal, the worst pain there is? It is in God’s plan and fulfills His purpose of reproducing Himself. We need to understand that the Instigator and Inflicter is ultimately our Heavenly Father. Betrayal is one of the toughest tests that we will be asked to pass. You have no doubt read about “the trial of your faith…tried with fire” (I Pet. 1: 7). And, “Think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you…but rejoice…you are partakers of Christ’s sufferings” (I Pet. 4: 12: 5: 8-10). We must suffer with Him before we reign with Him (Rom. 8: 17).
To bring us to a higher growth, He tests us with “bad” things to get answers to two questions. First, can we forgive Him for allowing the betrayal or any of the things we suffer? Second, can we forgive the betrayer that God used? To arrive at the answers, we must think of Christ and the betrayal by Judas. And the heartfelt words: “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.”
It comes back around to the initial question. Can we thank God for everything that happens to us in this life? Can we accept that “all things work together for good to them that love God”? We quote that verse, but when the pain begins, can we see that our Father–for our good–allows evil to come slyly into our lives?
It is easy to thank Him for the “good” things in life. But can we thank Him for the…Well, I will let Him answer: “I form the light and create darkness: I make peace and create evil: I Yahweh do all these things” (Isa. 45: 7).
Kenneth Wayne Hancock