While millions of Americans gather to give thanks to God for blessings given throughout the year, to many of us, it might be a difficult time to be sincere in our gratitude. Perhaps it seems that God has dealt us a series of misfortunes that have turned this time of joy into one of bitterness. I think especially of Christians throughout the world who are being persecuted for their faith. Why has God allowed these evils to happen to such faithful people? What good can come out of them?
We can find part of our answer in God’s response to Job: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations?” (Job 38:4). Here, God offers us consolation through teaching us humility. Humility does not mean making ourselves less than we are—rather, it means realizing exactly where we are in relation to God, grounding ourselves in reality. The reality is this: we know next to nothing. Even in our most impressive scientific and philosophical insights, our perspective and knowledge of the world is pathetically limited.
But there are some things we can know. In his commentary on the Book of Job, St. Thomas Aquinas says that “it would not please God that someone should suffer from adversity unless he wished some good to come to him from it. So though adversity is bitter in itself and generates sadness, nevertheless it should be the cause of rejoicing when one considers the use because of which it pleases God…For when taking a bitter medicine, one can rejoice with reason because of the hope for health, although he suffers sensibly.”
For this reason, Job’s initial response to misfortune was on point. “The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord!” (1:21) Job’s humility allows him to acknowledge his limitations and ground himself in the reality of his relation to God. He can now see these evils not as pointless but as a sort of ‘bitter medicine,’ and thereby find the strength to turn to God in thanksgiving.
While in prison shortly before his martyrdom, St. Thomas More wrote to his daughter: “Nothing can come but what God wills. And I am very sure that whatever that be, however bad it may seem, it shall indeed be the best.” By humbly submitting ourselves to Divine Providence, we find our strength to be authentic on this Thanksgiving. God accomplishes his will, and his grace flows even in the darkness of this present age. Blessed be the name of the Lord! As we gather with our family, friends, and community on this blessed holiday, let us then with full and sincere hearts give thanks to Almighty God for the many gifts he has bestowed upon us.
Br. Elias Guadalupe Ford, O.P. | Meet the Student Brothers in Formation HERE