I took a bang to the head a little while ago and have had headaches ever since. I am not thankful for the headaches. I don’t think they are “good,” and I certainly don’t want anyone to tell me that they are for my best.
I am also trying to think God’s thoughts about this.
Always give thanks?
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thess. 5:16-18)
What do these verses mean? We do not give thanks for oppression or victimization, and we do not give thanks for cancer, spinal cord injuries, or even more innocuous things like headaches. They are all attached to the fall of humanity into sin. They are attached to death itself. They are not reasons for thanks. Instead, they are a time for action against injustice and prayers for healing.
These verses then are not telling us to give thanks for all circumstances but to give thanks in [the midst of] all circumstances. We can do this because Jesus has come and the Spirit has been poured out on us. Death itself has been defeated. We can give thanks in all circumstances because Jesus has overcome the world and misery does not have the last word.
See this as good?
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Rom. 8:28-29)
There are plenty of hardships in this world, and they are not good. What is good is that evil cannot stand in the way of God’s essential work of making his people more and more as they were intended to be, which is portrayed most clearly in the Son. This, indeed, is a glorious good, but it could feel as though it falls short of our lesser versions of good, such as “everything will be okay someday [in this life]” which is a common way of mangling Romans 8. My headaches might not be okay in my lifetime, and I might never understand why this happened. But I know Jesus reigns, and that is enough.
Learn power in weakness
Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:8-9)
Strength in weakness is a New Testament promise: Jesus was crucified in weakness and raised in power (2 Cor.13:4), and we can expect to follow in his steps. Weakness is the new strength. It is the way the Lord brings glory to himself, and it is the cornerstone of his plans for the church. If this is his strategy for me, then bring it on. But, please Father, bring it on with an outpouring of strengthening grace that keeps me from grumbling and polishes me to be an accurate reflector of your glory.