Staff & Sling

Joseph E. Hébert, Ph.D.

98119 N 3745 Rd
Okemah, OK  74859
918 623 3078

In All Things Give Thanks

We lost a dear pet. His name was Pauli. He was our cat.

In October of 2001 we adopted two kittens in Dallas. They were born in a park and, along with several others, were rescued by a woman who I'm certain had the best of intentions. We chose to adopt the two that were pitch black. You see it was almost Halloween. I know it sounds like an urban legend to talk about people seeking out solid black or solid white cats for satanic rituals, but it was enough of a concern that the local animal shelters simply wouldn't adopt such cats/kittens out until November. Since this woman was giving the kittens away to any takers we decided to take the two that were most at risk.

Now I'm a physicist by training and trade, so it was sort of mandatory that we name the first one Schrödinger. And since they were literally identical (we had to color code them with collars for over a year), we named the second one Pauli. You see, it was only by virtue of the Pauli exclusion principle that the second one could not be Schrödinger.

Schrödinger died some months after their first birthday. And eventually we adopted another kitten for Pauli to play with. Her name is Pretty and she is alive and well and loved. But Monday Pauli was not himself and by Tuesday was noticeably distressed. We brought him to a vet who diagnosed him with severe kidney disease and infection. We tried giving him antibiotics but sometime in the wee hours of Wednesday morning Pauli died. By then we really didn't expect him to make it through the night.

So Tuesday night, before going to bed, we explained what was happening to our boys so they could say their goodbyes. It was then that I taught them a lesson from scripture that I have found to be the most difficult for adults to learn. We read

In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you (I Thessalonians 5: 18).

I do not know why, but this one principle is met with the most stiff-necked resistance of anything else I have found written in scripture. And I don't mean that it is resisted by the unsaved, by lost souls who have no relationship with God. I mean that this principle, this simple statement of God's will for us, is met with more resistance, than anything else I know of in scripture, by born-again church-going Bible-believing Heaven-bound God-fearing Christians.

To be sure, everybody says that they believe they should give thanks in all things, even the bad things, but then they try to change what that means. They say, "Of course you should always count your blessings, even when times are hard." They say, "You can always find something to be thankful for." But they hold fast to the absolute rejection of the idea that they should give thanks for the bad things too (See also Ephesians 5:20).

Then there are some who try and come to terms with the idea of actually giving thanks for the bad things by rationalizing how they only seem like a bad things but are really blessings in disguise. These people like to cite Romans 8: 28. That's the verse that tells us that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are the called according to His purpose. And to an extent these people are right. But notice that this verse talks about those who are "called" according to His purpose. Christ told us that many were called, but few were chosen (Matthew 22: 14; 20: 16). It is worth noting here that everyone is called (it is not His will that any should perish), and that is His purpose.

How did it work for their personal good when the Apostles were murdered in such untimely and hideous ways? How even might it work for the personal good of a parent to lose a child? What corporeal blessing would you trade your child's life for? Do you imagine that Tuesday night, in the midst of their grief, there was any earthly blessing that either of my sons would have hesitated to give up for Pauli to be restored? My point is this. Indeed, nothing happens to a single one of His children that God doesn't allow, but it is vanity to think that everything that happens is for our own corporeal sake!

So today, when Satan tries to deceive people into believing that Jesus didn't really rise from the dead, he is quickly quieted by the fact that a dozen men faced horrible, gruesome deaths, deaths that they could have easily avoided if only they had denied Christ's resurrection. But the Apostles chose to die (painfully and gruesomely no less) instead. No one man, much less twelve men, will die for a lie, and certainly not a decades old lie. Even more so not when recanting the lie would both spare their lives and be without cost. (Of course we know that the cost would have been great in eternity.) Do you see? These things happened, these men died, not for their own blessing but for ours, and for the generations of people who have been called since. In that light we can easily see how even these horrid fates worked together for good for the called according to God's purpose (which is the salvation of men).

So this was the lesson I tried to teach my sons, while they are still young enough to accept it, that they were to give God thanks for letting Pauli die. That they shouldn't look for some hidden blessing in Pauli's death, but that they should just give thanks. I pointed out to them that God never commanded that they feel grateful, and that they should certainly not try and lie to God by pretending that they were. I explained to them that it would be very silly for God to command them to be grateful for something so painful. No one could be grateful for such a thing. I went on to explain to them that God was not looking for our gratitude, but our obedience.

This is His will for us, that we obey. Giving thanks, even for and during the worst times of our Earthly lives, isn't a means of finding a silver lining. Sometimes there is no silver lining this side of Heaven. But God still wants us to obey, and put our trust in Him. Giving thanks for all things, even and especially the terrible things, is not an act of gratitude, but an act of obedience and a statement of faith.

Ephesians 5:20    Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;

Romans 8: 28    And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [his] purpose.

Matthew 22: 14    For many are called, but few [are] chosen.

Matthew 20: 16    So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.