We’re on chapter 4 of Elisabeth Elliot’s Suffering Is Never for Nothing! The last three weeks, we’ve walked through the “terrible truth” of living in a fallen world, the “message” of being still and knowing that God is God, and the importance of “acceptance” in our suffering. Today, we turn our hearts to praise with Chapter 4: Gratitude.
Memory Verse: Psalm 50:23
The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!
Think about this for a moment. Who is the most joyful person you know?
Do you have that person’s face in your mind? Now picture the most bitter person you know. Got it?
Most likely, if you know these folks well, you can point to difficult moments of suffering in their lives. They’ve carried both the weight and the pain of living in this fallen world. But their responses couldn’t be more different. Why?
Elisabeth addressed this dichotomy in our chapter this week. She said:
We all know people who have gone through terrible things and have turned out to be pure gold. . . . We also know people who have been through equally bad things, . . . but they have turned out to be angry, bitter, resentful, querulous, and generally un-get-along-withable.
Now what was the difference? It wasn’t the experiences. It was their response. And the response of a Christian should be gratitude. . . . I think we could divide the world into two classes: the people who make a habit of complaining about what they haven’t got or what they have got and those who make a habit of saying “Thank You, Lord” for what they haven’t got and what they have got (p. 60).
I’ve found this to be true in my own life as well. The people on the extreme ends of the spectrum—the most joyful and the most bitter—are often the ones that have suffered the most. So, in our own suffering, how do we become the thankful ones? How do we turn out “to be pure gold”? We look to Jesus, as Hebrews 12:1–2 exhorts us.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [the believers throughout history who lived by faith], let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
We grab hold of the sacrifice of Christ, and we choose to make a sacrifice of our own. We lay aside the weight of bitterness and the sin of resentment, and we run forward, painful step by painful step, in the way of faith, joy, and forgiveness. We despise the shame our suffering easily brings us, and we look instead to our beautiful Savior with radiant, confident hope (Ps. 34:5).
This isn’t easy. The truth is that life is hard and giving thanks in the midst of it is hard. But the truth is also that He has pioneered the way for us, and He runs alongside us on the trail He blazed as a careful, tender, weight-bearing Shepherd (Ps. 23; Matt. 11:28–30). We can give thanks because He has not left us alone to muster up gratitude by our own strength. No. A thousand times no. Remember our memory verse for this week?
“The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!” (Ps. 50:23).
That’s a promise. He is right there with us, taking our sacrifices of praise, glorifying Himself through them, and showing us His salvation—both now and in the eternity that is ahead of us. So, today and every day, let’s choose to give thanks, because that is the way to joy.
- Have you ever received a gift that was hard to be thankful for? Tell about it.
- Describe the most thankful person you know. What have you learned from their example?
- What is your gameplan to deal with suffering? Is there anything you’d change about or add to Elisabeth Elliot’s list on pp. 65–66?
- When have you had to make a “sacrifice” by giving thanks in a hard situation (pp. 64–65)? How did God show you His salvation through it?
- Discuss the idea of “making a career out of my troubles” (p. 68). What do you think Elisabeth meant by this? How do you see yourself or others doing this, and how can we, by God’s grace, keep ourselves from this trap?
- On page 70, Elisabeth touched on the connection between gratitude and forgiveness. Discuss: how do you see God’s forgiveness of us and our forgiveness of others affecting our ability to be grateful?
- Do you think our burdens of suffering can be seen as gifts (p. 72)? Why or why not?
(Download a PDF of these questions for your group here!)
Resources for This Chapter:
- Let Me Be a Woman by Elisabeth Elliot
- A Chance to Die by Elisabeth Elliot
- “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” by Thomas Gray
- “I will not be afraid, I will not be afraid” by G.E.M. Govan
Today, we’re giving away a copy of my favorite missionary biographies: A Chance to Die by Elisabeth Elliot herself. This book recounts the life of Amy Carmichael, a woman who suffered much from chronic nerve pain, but learned to give thanks and serve others in the midst of it. By the grace of God, she rescued many women and girls from a life of forced prostitution in India. Amy famously said, "Missionary life is simply a chance to die." She chose sacrifice of her comfort and desires. But her many poems and writings show a heart that also chose the sacrifice of praise.