As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving this week, there are many things for which I thank God – for my home and my children, for the air I breathe and the food I eat, for God’s protection and forgiveness – for the heaven he gives.
Oh, and I also thank God my brother has brain cancer.
A little over two years ago my brother Adam had a seizure. The doctors found tumors in his brain. He had cancer. Surgery was out of the question. The tumors were too deep.
So far the doctors have been able to keep my brother’s cancer under control and he has lived a relatively normal life. He has a beautiful wife, a precocious daughter and a bouncing baby boy. We don’t know, however, how long doctors will be able to control his cancer. We don’t know what will happen in the future.
So how can I thank God my brother has brain cancer?
For the same reason you can thank God your marriage is struggling and your son is flunking out of college. That’s right, you can thank God you lost your job and even that your grandfather died.
I know. All of this sounds a bit crazy and even a tad offensive. Why would we thank God for tragedies in our lives?
At one of the darkest moments in Israel’s history, at a time when most of his people had given up hope, God told the Prophet Jeremiah to write them a letter. “I know the plans I have for you,” God said in the letter, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).
God has plans for you and his plans are for your good. The problem is God’s plans are not always our plans. You may not understand fully why God is doing what he is doing. It may hurt.
When you visit the dentist, it often hurts as he fixes your tooth. Though it hurts, he is not harming you. He is helping you. You may not always feel like thanking him because of the pain, but you can thank him because you know he is doing it for your good.
God works in the same way. Your pains and problems are actually blessings in disguise.
If you have a hard time understanding that, read the stories of Ruth or Job or Esther in the Bible. God used suffering in each of their lives to bring about wonderful blessings.
God uses our trials and troubles to teach us lessons and bring us closer to him. He uses them to bring about future blessings we cannot see or comprehend at the time.
What makes this especially hard is that God never promises to let you see or understand why he is doing what he is doing. I don’t know exactly why my brother has brain cancer. I don’t know exactly what good will come from this.
I can be sure, though, that good will come from it. I can be sure, because God promises it will. I can be sure, because God’s plans end with Adam and his family (and me) together in heaven.
God’s plans end with you in heaven as well. That’s why you can thank God your car broke down. That’s why you can thank God your pet goldfish died. That’s why you can thank God for your insufferable boss.
Is it easy? Of course not. You may struggle to see and accept God’s plans when you are in the middle of the storm. It’s hard to thank God when you are hurting. Your heart may ache and tears may roll down your cheeks as you mouth the words “Thank you, God.”
It isn’t easy when God lets us hurt here on earth, but never forget, it is all for our good.
And that is why I can, with tears in my eyes, thank God my brother has brain cancer.