Tell the Lord, “Thank You.”
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:4-7, HCSB
Last Spring, a devastating tornado ripped through the town of Beauregard, Alabama. That tornado killed twenty-three people in that small town. I read about the story of one woman who survived the tornado. Earnestine Reese was a seventy-two-year-old grandmother, who went to her prayer closet when the bad weather hit. During the tornado, in her prayer closet with family members, Earnestine’s son said, “Mom, I don’t want to die.” Her reply? “Son, just pray your way through.” The truly remarkable part of the story is what happened when they pulled Earnestine from the rubble of the closet after the deadly tornado had passed. They pulled Earnestine out and her first response was, “Tell the Lord, ‘Thank You.’” She was told that her house was gone. Her response? “Tell the Lord, ‘Thank You.’” Fifteen people on her street died, seven of them were Earnestine’s family members. She said, “Every time the enemy tried to bring something into my mind, I keep thinking, ‘Tell the Lord, “Thank You.” And that’s what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna keep telling God, ‘Thank You,’ because I trust Him, and I’m gonna keep telling God, ‘Thank You. Thank You for the storm, thank You for the recovery, thank You for the joy of the Holy Ghost. Thank You, God.’ I will not forget what He’s done for me. I will not forget. We will rebuild. We will recover. In all of these things, we will thank God. We will thank God.”
Most of us cannot even wrap our heads around faith like Earnestine’s. We read Paul’s words to the Philippians and think of happy and joyous skipping through a meadow. We don’t think about Paul sitting in prison penning those words: “Rejoice in the Lord always.” We have a fair-weather faith. When things are going well, when we feel blessed—then we can rejoice and give thanks. But when we’re in the storm, when we’re buried in the rubble of living in a fallen world—our rejoicing has no voice, and our thanks go silent.
Like Peter stepping out onto the water, we look at the waves around us, and we begin to sink. Our circumstances scream so loudly. Like Job, we look around and say, “For the thing I have feared has overtaken me, and what I dreaded has happened to me” (Job 3:25, HCSB). Our circumstances move our eyes away from the Lord. We forget that Jesus stands before us with open arms. We forget to tell the Lord, “Thank You,” and focus on Him through the storm.
Sometimes we look at our circumstances and think, “God must not like me.” While we may not claim to be the “name-it-and-claim-it” types, we look at blessings as a sign of favor. The alternate side of that is, of course, that, when things go wrong, it would be a sign of being out of favor. But Matthew 5:45 tells us, “He causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (HCSB).
We forget that Paul is writing about the peace of God from a prison cell. We forget that Joseph was sold into slavery, away from all he knew, before He became great in the house of the Pharaoh. We forget that God’s chosen people spent years in slavery. We forget that our own Savior was tortured and then died on a cross. We forget that our real hope lies—not in everything going perfectly for us but—in the hands of a Savior who walks with us and comforts our hearts. We forget that, even in times of trouble, there are things for which we should thank the Lord. We forget that His arms are open and He stands ready to give us His peace.
As we face the darkness of the last days of Lent, let’s tell the Lord, “Thank You.” As we face the uncertainty of the days ahead, let’s tell the Lord, “Thank You.” As we weather this storm, let’s tell the Lord, “Thank You.”