Thankfulness Despite Tragedy

I have written about tragedy and faith in previous posts (see here, here, and here). As Christians, we should understand that the pain we experience as a result of tragedy is temporary in light of eternity. We will eventually be in a place where all tears are wiped away (Revelation 21:4), and that should provide us with some measure of comfort. But there’s a big difference between being comforted and being thankful, isn’t there? Can we really be thankful if we experience a serious tragedy?

Yesterday, I preached at my home church, Wesley Free Methodist. I have preached there a few times before, and you can find three of my sermons and many better ones preached by others on the church’s “Weekly Message” page. This sermon was different, however, because it was not the sermon I wanted to give. It was challenging, and if you listen to it, you will hear my voice crack a few times due to emotion. However, I think the message I am trying to impart is important, so I am sharing it here.

You can listen to the sermon by clicking on the “play” icon in the bar below, or you can right-click on the link below the bar and choose “Save Link As” to download it to your device. If the message touches you and you think you know of someone else it might touch, feel free to share it.

6 thoughts on “Thankfulness Despite Tragedy”

  1. First of all Dr. Wile, I would also like to thank you for sharing your message. I think it was a good one. Having emotions during your message simply means that you care deeply about the situations and people you spoke about. The figure you gave, that 80% of the world population lives on 10 dollars a day (or less), caught me by surprise. I thought the percent would be much lower. We truly are blessed financially in this country.

    I think you are correct that we, as Christians, often have to view the tragedies of life from the perspective of eternity in order to make sense of them. My personal experience with the relatively sudden death of my wife in June of 2016 was initially one of numbness, along with deep pain and sadness. I became extremely focused on me and my pain. I still cared about the rest of my family and friends, but initially it was more about me. How can I make this pain go away?

    I think everyone is different in their response to tragedy or loss. For me it took some time…..and a lot of support from family and good Christian friends…..before I came to the realization that the path to healing for me was through trying to help others in need. The lessons learned through the loss of a close loved one can be extremely beneficial when dealing with others who have suffered significant loss. They are lessons I would have preferred not to have learned, but they help provide a bond with others who are dealing with difficult life circumstances. I found that putting more focus on the needs of others, and less on myself, helped me to heal. The deep pain and sadness I felt at first are gone.

    The other situation I would like to address concerns those who do not profess a belief in God. You mentioned the hope we, as Christians, have because of eternity. I use hope it the Biblical sense. It is an assurance of our eternal destination with the Lord. That is also part of the reason I no longer have the deep sadness I had at first. I have been continuously aware that I will also be with the Lord and with my wife again some day…..for eternity. My assurance, that I will see my wife again, is not based on anything I have done. It is based entirely on what Jesus has done for me.

    I am not sure how those who do not believe in God are able to cope with deep personal loss. It must be a very different way of coping when there is no hope of ever seeing a loved one again . I can only gently suggest to those who do not know the Lord, that they seriously consider choosing a different path in life. A path that provides both hope for the present and assurance of salvation for eternity.

    1. Thank you for sharing your personal experience with loss, Bill. I am so glad that you found your path to comfort by helping others! Like you, I am very thankful that I have Christ and His promises to help me through loss. I wouldn’t know what to do without that comfort.

  2. Dr. Wile, you mentioned in your sermon that Diana Waring had educated you on the fact that we know almost nothing about the first Thanksgiving, and that you’d intended to preach in that regard

    I’d be very interested in learning more information on that topic (and I’m sure others would too). Perhaps you could blog about it, if you have the time?

    God bless you and your family this Thanksgiving day!

    1. Most of what we know about the Pilgrim colony comes from William Bradford’s Of Plymouth Plantation. The first Thanksgiving isn’t mentioned anywhere in any of Bradford’s writings. The only reference to it is found in a letter from Edward Winslow (Bradford’s assistant) to some of the investors back in Europe. Here is the sum total of what we know:

      Our harvest being gotten in, our Governor sent four men on fowling; that so we might, after a more special manner, rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruit of our labours. They four, in one day, killed as much fowl as, with a little help besides, served the Company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our Arms; many of the Indians coming amongst us. And amongst the rest, their greatest King, Massasoyt, with some ninety men; whom, for three days, we entertained and feasted. And they went out, and killed five deer: which they brought to the Plantation; and bestowed on our Governor, and upon the Captain, and others.

      Nevertheless, we have built an entire mythology around it. I would note two things:

      (1) As a part of this feast, they exercised their arms. In other words, the celebration included military exercises. That’s not exactly what one thinks of when one thinks of the first Thanksgiving.

      (2) As I understand it, the Pilgrims would not have considered this a religious holiday. They most certainly gave thanks to God, as He was a constant part of their lives. However, historians tell me that the Pilgrims considered religious holidays to be somber occasions.

      There is an excellent book that goes into all of this in detail:

      The First Thanksgiving: What the Real Story Tells Us About Loving God and Learning from History by Dr. Robert Tracy McKenzie

      1. Thanks for the history lesson,

        I might add one more note to your list:

        (3) Venison is not usually considered a necessary dish in the modern day Thanksgiving feast, but from the little we know about the first Thanksgiving, Massasoyt and his ninety men “went out, and killed five deer: which they brought to the Plantation; and bestowed on our Governor, and upon the Captain, and others.”

        I myself would be happy to restore this long-lost Thanksgiving tradition!

        Moosemeat and cranberry sauce, anyone?

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