Jim Denison on Thanking God When It’s Hard to Be Grateful

“Pastor Dimitri was one of the brightest, most intelligent, and most innovative leaders I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing.” This is how one pastor remembers Dr. Dimitri Bradley, the founder of a megachurch in Virginia who was killed in a car crash last Wednesday night while driving home from church.

The fifty-one-year-old pastor and his wife started City Church in Richmond in 1998 in the living room of their home, growing it to nearly four thousand members. A memorial service for Dr. Bradley will be held this Saturday at 11 a.m.

In other news, a pilot was flying his single-propeller airplane in rural Minnesota last Saturday when disaster struck. According to the Scott County Sheriff’s Office, the plane “hit a cluster of power lines and became suspended on a guideline, upside down.” The pilot was inside, hanging upside down as well.

Workers de-energized the power line and rescued the pilot. He was uninjured.


It’s easy to give thanks to God for remarkable stories such as the rescue of the stranded pilot. I’m sure you have your own examples of wonderful provisions that make thanksgiving joyful this Thanksgiving week. As we learned from Mister Rogers yesterday, ten seconds is enough time to remember those whose love has been instrumental in our lives.

However, the Lord states that neither his capacities nor his character change with changing circumstances (cf. Malachi 3:6). It is therefore just as logical and plausible to view him through the prism of Dr. Bradley’s tragic death as through our gratitude for the pilot’s survival. I’m sure you have your own circumstances that make thanksgiving challenging this week.

After C. S. Lewis’ wife died, he wrote in A Grief Observed that he was not in danger of ceasing to believe in God. Rather, he was in danger of believing “such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not ‘So there’s no God after all,’ but ‘So this is what God is really like. Deceive yourself no longer.’”

We have all been there. When our first child was born, I was filled with unspeakable gratitude to the God of life for his precious life. When that son was diagnosed many years later with cancer, my gratitude was replaced by unspeakable grief. He is well today, but his suffering is still one of the great tragedies of my life.


Scripture requires us to “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). But there’s a but: Paul says to be grateful “in” all circumstances, not “for” all circumstances. Perhaps we are not required to be grateful forhard times, just to find a way to be grateful in them.

Apparently not.

In Ephesians 5 we find this command: “Always give thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20 NCV). Not “in” but “for.” “Always” (pantote) for “everything” (panton).

Paul lists no exceptions or qualifications. Taken together, these two verses therefore teach that I was to give thanks in the midst of our son’s cancer diagnosis and for it as well.

What makes thanksgiving hard for you this week? In the face of whatever you just named, you are to give thanks, both in your circumstances and for them.

In difficult times, this seems an impossible request, one we will explore across this Thanksgiving week. For today, let’s remember the story of the man led by God to make it.

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Source: Christian Headlines