Thankful for the Thorns
Updated: Dec 15, 2020
By Jason Wredberg
I’ve been reflecting over the last week or so on this crazy year that is quickly (and mercifully) coming to a conclusion. To declare that 2020 hasn’t been the year I anticipated feels like a profound understatement. At every turn, this year has surprised me with unexpected thorns. I’ve been painfully pricked and poked, and I’m tired.
In the kind providence of God, however, I have the privilege of attending church with some irrepressibly joyful people. While they are not immune to trials and difficulty, they do seem largely unaffected by the chaos and confusion that surrounds them. I don’t mean that these friends are blissfully unaware or naive, but their hearts seem unusually inclined toward thanksgiving—even in the most unlikely of times. I am grateful for the influence of these friends, and I’ve been inspired by them to catalogue a few of the reasons I have to be thankful for the thorns of 2020.
The forced closure of churches, schools, and parks in the early spring provided me with some increased time with my family. I wasn’t thankful for this unexpected family time until one night when my seven-year-old son, Gideon, told me that he hated the coronavirus, but would be sad when it was gone because he wouldn’t be able to see me as much. God used my son’s words to help me look past the temporal discouragement and inconvenience of cancelled activities to the sovereign hand of God. God was giving me extra time with my children—time that could be used to create moments of laughter and lasting memories. I am thankful for the gift of family and the blessing of time to spend with them.
For some, the pandemic brought increased isolation rather than increased time with loved ones. Instead of treasured time with children, some friends and family began to suffer in loneliness. While my heart grieved for the pain they were experiencing, there was a recurring theme I heard from many. They were encouraged in their isolation by what they described as a greater experience of the nearness of God. I have no doubt these dear believers were experiencing the love of their Father as the Holy Spirit comforted them with the reality of Hebrews 13:5, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” I am thankful that I’ve had a front-row seat to witness God comforting his people through the promises of his Word.
Growing up in a wonderful Christian home, I often attended church three times a week. When my family went on vacation, we always found a local church to attend. I have never gone any period of time without attending the weekly gathering of God’s people for corporate worship...until 2020. The temporary closing of churches initially confused and frustrated me, but it ultimately served to intensify my love for the body of Christ. I did not fully understand how much I would miss the sincere smiles, passionate singing, hearty laughter, painful tears, and loving prayer of God’s people. I terribly missed our weekly services. But it wasn’t the program, it was the people. The reading and preaching of the Word, congregational singing, and sacraments—all of these are means of grace. But so are the people. A biblical local church is like a fountain of grace, and I was missing getting drenched every week. I have learned in a significant way (and I hope I never forget) that I deeply need the weekly corporate worship of God’s people. I am thankful for my local church—a truly loving faith family.
Almost every week I’ve heard about another local church that hasn’t been able to survive the many trials brought on by the coronavirus. While there are a variety of challenges churches have faced, and the reasons for churches shuttering are numerous, many local congregations have been ripped apart by disunity. It seems woefully inadequate, therefore, to simply thank God for his kindness and the members of Redeemer Bible Church for their humility, but I’m not sure what else to say. I am profoundly thankful. Why God has drawn Redeemer so close as a faith family, and why the members of Redeemer have pressed in and not retreated, I don’t fully know. But, again, I am profoundly thankful.
Redeemer, thank you for taking seriously the words of Scripture, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1-3). I am thankful for supernatural unity and believers who work hard to maintain it.
I could go on. In this election year, I am thankful for the Kingship of Jesus. In the midst of the ongoing uncertainty of the coronavirus, I am thankful that God’s sovereignty is more than a stale theological concept, but it is an exceedingly comforting reality. I am thankful for the unstoppable nature of the Kingdom of God. New churches are being planted. Existing churches are growing. Hopeless and helpless sinners are being born again. New missions efforts are being generously funded. Hurting believers are being cared for. What a glorious time be alive. Trampling the thorns and thistles of this fallen world, Aslan is on the move.
After reading this post (which is much too long), I'd love to hear from you. Email me at email@example.com and let me know what you’re thankful for. What lessons have you learned this year?
“I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds” (Psalm 9:1).