By Shawn McMullen
This past summer I led a baby dedication service at my home church for our twin grandchildren, Sam and Ellie. Their parents (our daughter Kyla and son-in-law Eddie) requested the service to convey their gratitude to God and to express their intent before a church family to raise their children to know and love the Lord.
While planning the service, I spoke with a wise elder who suggested, “As you’re thanking God publicly, you might want to remember there may be families in the audience who have lost children, or have been praying for children for years without a positive answer.” I took his words to heart and attempted to design a service that expressed our gratitude and devotion to God while respecting the struggles and disappointments others in the audience may have experienced.
More recently, some members of our family received an answer to prayer that came unexpectedly and at the last minute, protecting them from financial ruin. We had prayed about their plight for years and felt overwhelmed with gratitude to God for intervening in such an astonishing way.
But how would we give thanks? If we expressed our gratitude publicly before the church, surely there would be families in the audience who also prayed for deliverance from their financial problems and have yet to find relief.
And then there was the woman who gave a moving public testimony in a service I attended recently. She had been waiting on the results of a biopsy she feared would indicate cancer, but proved otherwise. As I rejoiced with the congregation over her good news, I realized I was sitting in the same pew with a faithful Christian woman who has been battling breast cancer for years.
The question is, when God acts favorably on our behalf, how can we give him the honor he deserves without bringing unnecessary pain and heartache to those who have similar needs, but have not been similarly blessed? Here are a few suggestions.
Give God the glory. God said to Israel, “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me” (Psalm 50:15, English Standard Version). We’re not being arrogant or elitist when we thank God publicly for answers to prayer; we’re being obedient. And we’re giving others the opportunity to “Rejoice with those who rejoice” (Romans 12:15). The key is to place more emphasis on God and less on us. This encourages everyone in the body of Christ to share the joy.
Point to God’s mercy. We should always thank God for answered prayer. But we should never thank him in ways that imply we deserved his help. God is merciful in spite of us, not because of us.
Focus on submission. When we prayed for our yet-to-be-born grandchildren and for the financial needs of our family members, we were careful to say, “Lord, whether or not you give us what we’ve asked, we will continue to love, worship, and serve you.” Letting others know we prayed with submissive spirits—before we knew the results of our requests—may be helpful to some who are struggling.
God deserves public expressions of gratitude. As we receive his mercy, let’s thank him wholeheartedly—and with sensitivity to our brothers and sisters in Christ who continue to pray and wait.