How Do I Thank God for THAT?

 I pour myself another cup of coffee and hear a semi truck’s rumbling exhales on the road outside. A friend’s question has been tumbling through my head this last week and a half.

“I know I can thank God for even the hard things in my life — and with hindsight now, I can see where he’s brought beauty in those things — but in my child’s life?” she types. ” To thank him for abuse in her life? How do I do that? Am I supposed to?”

The question hangs in cyberspace as I read it, ponder it, and then walk away to give it the thought it deserves. In the busy two weeks that follow, it tickles my brain.

At two women’s retreats, I join other lovely speakers to talk on the theme of “Chased by Grace.” In my sessions on Nehemiah, we walk through hope-infused stories of a refugeed people standing up from the rubble in their lives, strapping on swords, and rousing to “Fight for your brothers, your sons and daughters, your husbands and wives, and your homes.”   “…And our God is fighting for us!” Nehemiah yells. Again and again in that historical account from the 400s BC, we see God’s huge hand bringing beauty from rubble. An expert Architect, he rebuilds the ruins of a city and the ruins of peoples’ lives. And he did it in such a way that the enemies and surrounding nations realized that “this work had been done with the help of our God.” 

Back home from the retreats, a blonde-haired friend and I text about an upcoming informational breakfast against human trafficking. In addition to going, we decide to sponsor a table, rallying more people to fight against human trafficking and to rescue women and teens. (Want to join us? Nov. 2 in Minneapolis. It’s free! Let me know.) We talk details and I slip my red phone back into the wooden bowl on the counter. Thinking of young girls and guys trapped in sexual slavery sinks sadness into me. Even that, God? What does it look like to give thanks in everything?

Curled up on the couch with my Bible and study materials, I come across the familiar verse in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (“…in everything, give thanks…”) and suddenly a grammar preposition changes everything. It didn’t say “FOR everything, give thanks” but “IN everything” — like through everything, in all circumstances, not for all circumstances.

This freedom, then, to not have to say thank you for abuse on children, for cancer in healthy cells, for poverty around the world– for whatever hard things wait for you back home.

This injunction, this invitation, to– in all circumstances– still thank God: 
-that he is big enough to handle even this
-that he can be trusted to rebuild this ruin and bring beauty from even this
-that he has a track record of restoring and redeeming the broken fallout of other humans’ bad choices. 

This tremulous release of opening hands to say, Okay, even in this, even in this, somehow…

-That even in our dark moments, in our hurt and pain, we can cry out like David in the Psalms, “Lord, slay the wicked!” and you get even that, God.

-That you are the Perfect Judge before whom we must all stand one day and give an account for every word and deed.

And that you are in the business of restoring lives, rescuing the widows and the orphans, and you call us to “Stand up and fight (alongside you).” Fight for your brothers, your sisters, your sons and daughters, your husbands/wives, your nieces and nephews, your grand-kids, and neighbors. “Our God will fight for us!” 

And, in this, I can give thanks and unclench my hands.

I love hearing from you. What hard things can you list in the “even this…” pile? (Those getting this via email can click here to join the conversation.)

(Linking with Emily.)

Photo credit. 

 Note: Perpetrators still need to be reported, processed, punished; survivors still need to be believed, rescued, counseled. For a helpful poignant book on surviving abuse, I appreciated Mary DeMuth’s book “Thin Places.”

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  1. Jayne on October 12, 2013 at 2:08 pm

    I'm sure you have heard of the band Casting Crowns. The bass players 5 month old son is in need of a heart transplant. The mother was telling the reporter about her struggle with praying about this. She is praying for a heart for her child knowing that another mom will have to lose her child and she asked, How do I pray for that? If you don't mind, I'm going to share this with them on their Facebook page. Thank you for your ministry, Jennifer. May God continue to bless it richly.

  2. Jennifer Dougan on October 12, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    Oh Jayne, no I didn't know about Casting Crown's bass player's family need. I can't imagine what they must be going through. We have prayed along with several close friends as they waited for transplants or shared organs. Waited, prayed, cried with, seen that great sacrificial gift.

    I'm honored to have my post shared with their fb page, (feel free to do that anytime)and I join you in praying for them this morning, and that mom's hard place to be in.


  3. Julie on an adventure on October 12, 2013 at 4:25 pm

    Oh, love this Jennifer. This helps me with what is often hard, the giving thanks for the hardest and what feels like cruel and broken things. I'm a counselor who has to see a lot with the kids and often you wonder how to give thanks beneath the wounds they encounter. But like you said, it's in all things, all circumstances that we can praise God that He's got "even that." Thanks for this post. Great to meet you.

  4. Floyd on October 12, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    Great point, not "for" but "in"… that will preach, sister…

  5. Brian Miller on October 12, 2013 at 5:39 pm

    it is def not easy to give thanks for the hard things…i was talking to another blogger this morning about how we can not see the larger picture in how things play out…often for me at least it is adversity which has shaped me the most and if my prayers had been answered to be delivered from it i would not be who i am today or learned what i needed for later….

  6. Lisa on October 12, 2013 at 5:53 pm

    Thanks, Jennifer, just what God needed me to hear today! Met you at Camp JIM Ladies' Retreat last Spring. My kids connected with yours at Camp JIM this summer. Thankful for the impact of godly relationships!

  7. Jennifer Dougan on October 15, 2013 at 12:45 am


    Nice to have you stop by here. Welcome!

    A counselor. That's great. Thank you for how you help kids. As a youth pastor's wife, I appreciate the help I'm sure you are. Yes, we too encounter situations where we are thankful that God has "even that."

    Blessings to you on your ministry,

  8. Jennifer Dougan on October 15, 2013 at 1:10 am

    Thanks, Floyd.


  9. Jennifer Dougan on October 15, 2013 at 1:15 am

    Hi Brian,

    Your line " if my prayers had been answered to be delivered from it i would not be who i am today or learned what i needed for later…." rings true, and makes me thankful I haven't gotten all the prayers I asked for.

    Thanks for weighing in on this,

  10. Jennifer Dougan on October 15, 2013 at 1:19 am


    So glad to have you stop by here and that this was helpful. Thanks to God!

    Those Camp Jim retreats are so nice, aren't they? Thank you.


  11. Anonymous on October 15, 2013 at 2:34 am

    Hi, Jennifer.

    Thanks for visiting my blog today. I've enjoyed looking around yours, too. I thought this was an especially nice article. Giving thanks in all circumstances… that's an important distinction. Thanks for you good thoughts on that.

    Jennifer Flanders

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