I remember very clearly reading 1 Thessalonians 5:18 and having some major doubts about my relationship with the Lord. It was November 10, 2007, and I had just stopped by to see my dad. I hadn’t been able to get him on the phone, which wasn’t unusual. He was a big man, a Vietnam veteran, and an alcoholic with PTSD. He often dropped the phone in his car and then couldn’t reach it. He would just wait for one of us to come by.
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, ESV).
We stopped by on our way out of town to visit some of Kenneth’s relatives. Sure enough, Daddy had dropped his phone in the car and needed me to get it. His eyes were red, speech slurred, and I could tell he wasn’t doing well. I got his phone, told him where we were going, and that I would check on him when we got back.
That was the last time I saw him.
In All Things
For the entire car ride, my mind was back and forth between worry and prayer for my daddy. A lot had transpired over the last few months that I won’t go into, but it had caused my sister and me quite a lot of anguish. We were all tired. Dealing with a loved one who suffers from addiction, depression, and anxiety is, well, I can’t really find a word.
When we got to Kenneth’s grandmother’s house, we visited with family, but for some reason, I picked up a book lying on an end table. I don’t remember the name of it, but it had to do with giving God thanks no matter our circumstances. With a heavy heart, I skimmed through the book, reading that verse and wondering how I could possibly be thankful for the struggles we were facing as a family.
My daddy left home when I was twelve. I don’t have a whole lot of memories of spending quality time with him or of ever feeling that he looked me in the eyes, listened to what I was saying, or cared about anything going on in my life. He was consumed with his own pain.
But one of those times was a trip to the VA when he was getting blood transfusions. I remember his sitting in the chair next to a fellow vet who had cancer. Daddy always seemed to enjoy the conversations with other veterans. I listened as he introduced me and my two kids to his new friend.
I couldn’t believe it. He was telling the gentleman that I was a “good Christian girl.” He teared up as he shared with this man how I was raising my children in a Christian home and serving in my church. He was really proud of me. I’ll never forget that moment.
Another time was the birth of my son. I remember Daddy coming to the hospital, holding Josiah in his arms, and with tears in his eyes, saying, “You did good.”
I know my daddy loved me. I just didn’t get to share many moments of feeling that love from him. The pain of his dysfunction affected our whole family. And that day on the way home from visiting Kenneth’s family, I decided I would do what that book said.
You see, the further I read in the book, the more I understood the command from God. We are to give thanks in all circumstances, not necessarily for all circumstances.
I wasn’t thankful that Daddy went to Vietnam and witnessed death and fear at such a young age. I wasn’t thankful that he left us and my parents divorced. I wasn’t thankful that he struggled with flashbacks, depression, and addiction.
I wasn’t thankful that he couldn’t see through his suffering to acknowledge that we were suffering, too.
But I was thankful that he lived through Vietnam. I was thankful for the time I had with him as an adult. I was thankful that God allowed it all and could work through it all. I was thankful for those moments that he did acknowledge me. I was thankful that I had the opportunity to share the Gospel with him many times.
Most of all, I was thankful that I serve a God who was with us through it all. He never left us. He offered joy for our grief, healing for our pain, peace for our unrest, and strength for our weakness. I was thankful that Jesus was there to restore all that the enemy had stolen and that He had the power to save, heal, and deliver my daddy.
So, on that trip home, I told the Lord that I was thankful for everything He allowed because I know that He is good and He is sovereign. Nothing happens that doesn’t pass through His hands. I prayed that He would deliver my daddy from his suffering on earth, but only when his heart was right so that I could spend eternity with him in heaven as the man God had created him to be.
And God was faithful.
I don’t know where your heart is this Thanksgiving, but I do understand the pain of loss and suffering. Just know that even in the most difficult of circumstances, God is there if you call on Him. He will carry you through it, and for that you can be thankful.