Serving God With A Thankful Heart
By Cheryl Hollar
We're not only to serve God, but to serve Him thankfully. Did
you know that? I didn't not until quite recently. All of us
struggle with problems, many of them utterly unexplainable and
even seemingly unbearable - every day. Yet, through these very
struggles, we are to thank God.
And, you don't need me to tell you - it's hard.
My lesson in thanking God even in the bad times hit me hard in June, 2000. I found out my mother had breast cancer and it had spread to both her lungs. At first, I was thinking, "Okay, this is the year 2000. Cancer surely has a cure by now." (My grandmother had passed away from ovarian cancer in 1983, my great aunt from pancreatic cancer in 1985). And, here we were again.
Then, since my twin sister and I were kept in the dark mostly (which wasn't fair but is how my family dealt with it), I started to worry about what kind of cancer it was was it in the blood, would her insurance pay for treatment, would she could she die? The doctor described our family's not being able to talk about this disease together as someone having an elephant sitting right in the center of the room that no one wanted to talk about.
And all during Mama's treatments, I just wanted someone to come and get me and take me away. I just wanted to go "out," "away." And I remember thinking, "I can't imagine saying, 'Do you remember Mama?" I felt like she'd always be there. I mean, this was my mother. Then it dawned on me! God didn't spare His own Son's life when He died for my sins on Calvary. That was his Son!! For the first time in my life, I realized what that really meant! This was my mother that was His Son! He did know how I felt.
And, in fact, He too was always there for me. It seemed He almost granted my every wish. You may laugh, but there were things God did for me that even the most staunch atheist couldn't deny that God did them! I had a cornea injury once that the ophthalmologist said couldn't have been any worse. There are seven layers of tissue or something protecting the eye, and my cornea was scratched through all seven layers. And it's healed! God healed it, and I didn't lose any sight! God has always been my light and shield and has granted me some of my heart's desires against incredible odds time and time again.
So, when Mama died from this cancer 10 months after diagnosis, I was left thinking God had let me down. I tried to "reason" it out. She went through all the chemotherapy, all the radiation, and surgery. Each time she went for a doctor's visit, I prayed God would just give me hope. And He did every single time. The last time, right before surgery, the doctor said the situation was "feasible." It was workable. Her surgery went well, and, though they never said they got it all, they said they got all they saw. Mama was smiling again, and our life took a bit of "normalcy" back for three weeks.
Then, Mama started asking questions like, "Where do I sit?" (at the table) and "Which way is the kitchen?" The cancer had gone to her brain. Nine weeks after they told us they got all they saw, she was gone nine weeks! And it was all a blur like we were moving in fast motion or something.
Why did God take Mama? I don't know. I don't think I'm meant to know this side of Heaven. I can also tell you that, there are areas in God's Word I never would have explored had my mother not died.
Shortly after her passing, I went out with some friends with whom I felt really comfortable. I remember saying the God I serve would never have done that to me. He's just too powerful. He just answers too many prayers. And I'm already His child. Why would he treat me that way? And I'll never forget what one of my friends said. She said her father, who was a pastor, had once preached a sermon on God's answers to prayer, and there were four ways God answered - "yes," "no," "wait," and "grow." Well, that really gave me a shock. I had heard that God sometimes answers, "yes," "no," and "wait," but --- "grow?" I didn't even know what that meant. And to top it off, my friend said God just wants us to praise Him for who He is. That gave me another jolt. Why, I had never thought about just praising God for who He is. God knows who He is.
But, I began to research and I began to grow and I slowly began to thank Him, even while serving in difficult circumstances.
I learned we are to thank God in all circumstances. Paul said he had learned to be "content" in all circumstances. It seems Paul had some mysterious ailment or eye problem or something (we don't know what), and even though God healed people every day and continues to do so today for some reason the only answer He continually gave Paul was, "My Grace is sufficient" and, "You are made perfect in weakness." But, why aren't we all made perfect in weakness? Why do some prayers get answered, and others just as earnestly asked go unanswered? I don't know.
Look at Hebrews 11 the "faith hall of fame" of God's saints. Some of his children got saved in miraculous ways - like Daniel getting saved from the very mouths of lions and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego getting saved from being literally burned alive. But some of God's saints in history didn't get saved at all. Some were beheaded, and others through the centuries were burned at the stake. I simply cannot imagine that kind of torture! And how could they thank God under those circumstances?
And how could I thank Him in this? Why would I? What's there to be thankful for?
Yet, we are to be thankful to serve God with a thankful heart.
So, I went to where it all started to the beginning. I asked myself, "What does God want from "me?" If I am to thank Him, and to grow in Him, I must know what God is like. What is His character? How can I become 'like Him?'" The Bible says in Philippians 2:7, "(He) took upon Himself the form of a servant" He literally spent His life in service to others, telling them and showing them the love of God. Oh yes --- and He was thankful! Can you guess what He said when He raised Lazarus from the dead? In John 11:41-42, He said, "Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me"
He's the Creator of all! The Bible says in Psalm 139:14 that we are "fearfully and wonderfully made." I recently heard a study by the pastor at my church on this just think about this a minute "fearfully" and "wonderfully." When we get sick or hurt, our body can sometimes repair itself. Our organs work, without our "knowledge." And they all mysteriously work together. No one can really explain how they work or even why it's just a mystery, plain and simple! That's pretty awe-inspiring to me.
The Bible also says in Philippians 4:6 that with "prayer" and "supplication" and "thanksgiving," we are to let our requests be made known to God.
I don't know why God didn't answer my prayer the way I had hoped and, just because I say "thank you," even with the sincerest of hearts, doesn't mean that God will answer my next prayer as I request.
But, thank Him? You bet I will maybe not for answering that particular prayer but for giving me a lifetime to glorify Him. And I thank God for bringing me to this and through this, because, through it, I got to know Him, and I could have done so IN NO OTHER WAY than in the circumstances that happened. I thank Him for being my Savior and my Friend. And, as for God letting me down ---
He didn't. He never has.
Cheryl Hollar is a writer of film, TV, Bible Study resources, and children's books.
Her PR background includes Rogers & Cowan in NY and Bon Jovi Productions.
She has written for "Sci-Fi Entertainment" and "Soap Opera Weekly."
You can order her book at bowkerbios.com/kerbios/cheryl_hollar.htm