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Recently I was awakened in the early hours of the morning by my son screaming for my wife. I went out to investigate and found my wife holding the garbage can up for my son to vomit into. After finding out that my wife had been up most of the night with our other son who was sick, I took over as she tried to get a little sleep before a busy day at work.

My son who had done the screaming, had just been through a night of excruciating nausea and vomiting only 10 days earlier; that bug had gone through the whole family and now here we are again! As another wave of strong nausea set in, my son starting shouting angerly “WHY, WHY, WHY DO I HAVE TO BE SICK!”

Isn’t that the question we all ask at some point: Why do we have to suffer? Why is life hard? Why do those we love get sick (especially at Thanksgiving time when we all want to be with family and enjoy eating. Can't we be sick on a work or school day?!).

The answer to why do we suffer is a tough and complex one. There is suffering in the world because of Adam's sin and the curse it left on creation, sometimes our suffering is because of personal sin, and suffering is always an opportunity for us to see our need for God and to draw us closer to him. God does not like to see us suffer, he has great compassion for us, but he always has purposes for our suffering. Some of these purposes we will never know until we get to heaven, but a clear purpose for our suffering is to mature us. This is why James 1:2-4 says to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

I believe that a very important part of the way we persevere in the midst of suffering is to become thankful people. Thankfulness is definitely a mark of a mature Christian, and thankfulness is something I need to work on. I am beginning to see my son’s sickness and many other recent challenges in my life as God’s lessons in thanksgiving; opportunities to practice being thankful when I feel anything but thankful. So, I tried doing some thankfulness training with my son. Given that it is Thanksgiving time, (and because I couldn’t stand his yelling anymore), I answered his “why” with a couple of verses and a question. I read 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, which says: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Then I asked my son if his night of nausea is included in the “all circumstances” that we are to give thanks in. He looked kind of puzzled and said that he wasn’t sure. I assured him that he was supposed to give thanks while nauseous (not that answer that he wanted to hear, but it did quiet him down). Then I prayed aloud for him and we started to list the things he could be thankful for even in this painful moment:

  • That his Dad and Mom were by his side through his sickness.
  • That God is always by our side when we are sick. Jesus completely understands because he was a boy once and certainly had nights of nausea.
  • That my son has ginger ale and medicine.
  • That his sickness is likely just a virus and will soon be over. We discussed people with cancer, nauseous from repeated chemo treatments, and now he can understand just a little of what they go through.
  • That my son gets to lay on the couch and watch cartoons (that was probably what he was most thankful for!)

God answered our prayers and by morning my son was feeling much better - an answered prayer that we could add to our list of what we have to be thankful for! Now our daughter is sick, but a least she is not screaming “Why!”

I encourage you to keep a prayer journal and to record your answered prayers. It is often in times of difficulty and suffering that we see the most answered prayers. There are often many “hidden” (less obvious) ways that we can see the hand of God working in the midst of difficult circumstances if we will just take the time to look for the things we have to be thankful for instead of focusing on our problems and pain.

If you are going through a painful trial of life right now and would like someone to pray with you, please contact us at Grace Baptist Church. We want to be Christ’s arms with a warm embrace and his shoulder to cry on for those who are hurting in our community.

 1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”