Should We Thank God For Anything At All?

You start to notice how people talk about God. We think god is absent when things are bad. Even Jesus did on the cross. But we instantly thank him when things are good. We thank God for all the blessings and all goodness that comes our way (well Christians do). Then we cry out to God when things go bad, or we think he’s abandoned us, or we don’t feel him around. It just seems all to presumptuous that he is there at all.

What is stopping is from just seeing all good and bad things as either God being fully aware and present or God never being aware and never present?

I can’t one day thank God for something and then the next day question his presence. My acknowledgement of God’s presence or action can’t be based on my daily individual experiences. But it always seems to. It really has to be an all or nothing situation. I don’t buy the constant fluctuation of presence in our lives of God. I get that it’s part of our humanity, that even Jesus couldn’t shake off, to question being abandoned by God when things are shit. I just finished reading Night by Elie Wiesel and he had every right to question God, his presence and his goodness while being tortured in concentration camps.

I just don’t think it’s a fair assessment to only give God what happens that is good. It wouldn’t make sense for Elie to have been rescued from his situation and then start right into praising and thanking God for getting him out of there. How can you thank God for your salvation in the same breath you are mourning someone else’s suffering and death?

It is for this reason that I have a hard time thanking God for anything. That sounds like an awfully heretical statement. I almost feel like going back and rephrasing. But I just don’t get it. How can one honestly thank God for anything and give credit for anything while there is still so much that he is on the hook for? Is it just a simple both/and and trying to live in the tension of it all? I don’t know if it is just tension. I think the situation demands that we either give God credit for all the good and he takes the blame for all the bad or we give no credit to him for either.

4 Comments

  • Nathan,

    If I could offer a thought, I think when addressing theodicy questions it’s useful to go back to the foundations, and ask how it is we know God and what he is like. For what it’s worth, I think very strong arguments can be made for God’s perfection, and his benevolence, as well as his transcendence. We can know with confidence that God is good and accept that we can’t always see how that goodness is consistent with the world as it is, but recognize that there’s no reason to think we would understand everything about God and his relation to the universe in the first place.

    God is responsible for everything, but someone can be responsible for something without being culpable for it. They can be part of the explanation for why it happened without being at fault.

  • Nathan, this might be of interest to you:

    Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

    That's from chapter five out of 1st Thessalonians.  It's a drop in the bucket on this topic, but, I think it's very explanitory as to why we should be praising God for His actions even when His actions aren't to our liking.

  • Thank you Lord for giving my Mom three different types of cancer and causing her excruciating pain and emotional suffering and taking her from us at a young age. I’m sure there was a good reason for this that is beyond my limited understanding and I’m eternally grateful for your tender mercies. I’m certain the dead look in my father’s eyes and her broken spirit and our shattered family life really satisfied some unfathomable cosmic purpose known only to your perfect conscience. Thy will be done. Amen.

  • This is the very reason I have such trouble… I don’t usually thank God for the good because insodoing I must acknowledge that he causes the bad. I, for example, have a healthy beautiful baby. I can’t thank God for her without wondering why someone else I know has a baby who is in incredible pain every day and may die at any moment… I feel like thanking God for what I have insinuates that I am better or more deserving than this poor mother who watches helplessly as her baby suffers, this woman who is more a Godly woman than I. It almost makes more sense that God is a terrible God and that we should thank Him for sparing us his wrath. But I don’t want to believe that. So I, instead, believe that part of our purpose here is to take care of each other. Usually when bad things happen it is because we fail to do so. I suppose the thing we can thank God for is our life…that we are here at all to love and laugh and experience the beauty of this world. Not for individual things, but for all of it, because it’s all connected.

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