When Giving Thanks Hurts

He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me. Psalm 50:23

Let's unpack this verse...but first...


When I was a little girl (just after the Earth's crust hardened), I was afraid of needles. I mean, deathly afraid. Not the sewing kind, mind you, (although I must admit I never mastered the use of those, either!) but the kind that either took blood or delivered medicine. Deathly afraid. Vestiges of that fear remain with me today. I don't even have to be on the receiving end of the needles to be afraid. Merely being in the presence of said villain is enough to send me over the edge. Just ask my husband about the time I had to call him at work to sit with a child who needed bloodwork...yes, that one definitely kept me out of the Mom Hall of Fame.

So I was(ok, am) very afraid of needles. I well remember the times I fainted or nearly so because I needed an injection. But something else stands out to me. An additional component of my response to shots. 

I grew up as the pharmacist's daughter and the town doctor lived next door. Pretty quaint, I know. Of course our families were close, personally and professionally! Well, I vividly remember many times Dr. Louis would come over to our house - or Mom would carry me over to his - and I would realize I was going to get a shot. Mama would hold me, I would lay my head on her shoulder and definitely not look at the arm (or bottom!) where the shot was going. She was so wise - she held me close and she did not tell me that it wouldn't hurt. That would have been an abject lie and the next time around I am sure I would have run for the next county! The needle would pierce my skin, the medicine would go in, and it was over. 

Except I wasn't done.

In the midst of near syncope(that's the medical term for fainting - I looked it up :) ), I would weakly say "Thank you, Dr. Louis." Then I would bury my head in my Mama's arms and she would revive me from certain death with ice cream. Worked quite nicely - I'm very much alive!

I had no idea what medicine was in that syringe. I was oblivious to how it was defeating the bacteria in my body or how it was inoculating me against dreaded diseases. I did know I didn't like it! However, even though I was afraid, even though I was in pain, I so trusted Dr. Louis - and the arms of my Mama - that I not only submitted myself to their actions, I even said "thank you" through my pain.

That's what this verse reminds me of - the sacrifice of thanksgiving. It honors the Lord.


By definition, "sacrifice" is the destruction or surrender of something for the sake of something else; something given up or lost. So, a sacrifice is giving up something we value for the sake of something (or someone) else.   The very act is a placement of more value on one thing than the other.

"Thanksgiving" means expressing gratitude, appreciation, for benefits received. 

"Honors Me"-  We know that the "Me" refers to God so what does it mean to "honor" the Lord?  To understand this phrase, we need to know what the word "honor" means - it is the Hebrew word "kabod" that we translate as "honor". The root word means "to be weighty, honored, renowned, glorious; to be esteemed". So the psalmist is telling us that our behavior can esteem, bring glory to, show the value of God.

Do the pieces fit together now? 

Sometimes it's easy to give  thanks. When the house sells quickly, when the tumor is benign, when the kids are behaving according to plan. Our hearts are full and the joy bubbles up into genuine praise and thanksgiving for God's gifts of grace. We rejoice! We celebrate! We flood His Throne with our thanks!

But there are other times...

When the circumstances don't seem to warrant our giving thanks to the Lord. Times of pain or confusion or disappointment. Times when it looks like things are  not going too well. When the house has not sold after 5 long years. When the results from the tests are no longer unknown, they are downright scary. When the spouse leaves, the children stray from truth, the infertility persists, the depression of a loved  one weighs everyone down, the job is lost, and the answer to prayers is no.

Our hearts do not bubble up with praise and thanksgiving.

It is in these very times that we have the opportunity to honor God the most. When we offer Him the sacrifice of thanksgiving. Thanking Him for the things on our wish list doesn't require sacrifice. And while we are right to thank Him for all those things too (because every good and perfect gift is from above - James 1:17), God is most glorified - His esteem most manifested - when His children offer thanks in the midst of these hard times. When we sacrifice what seems to be a better plan, our dreams, our hopes, our desires. When we thank Him for what appears to be the death of all of those.

I don't think we have to fake it and pretend to be happy in those times. Not at all. I think God is honored when we entrust Him with our true feelings about the situation, pouring out the pain of our broken hearts at His feet.  We sacrifice what we want, what seems right and best, and we give thanks. 

And, just like the little girl me trusted the love and wisdom of her Mama in the midst of a painful shot, we can trust our Father when He subjects us circumstances and situations that hurt. When we can surrender what we want on the altar of faith in His goodness, we can offer thanks, because we are confident of His steadfast love. His complete authority. And His promises that all His ways are good, faithful, full of grace and mercy. 

We offer to His Name our sacrifice of thanksgiving. Because we trust His ways, His plan...HIM. We don't have to understand what He is doing...we can rather trust Who He Is.

And He is greatly honored.