Is It Fatalism (Or Even Masochism) To Say “Alhamdulillah!” When Life Is Painful?

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“. . .in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you. . .” (The Injil, the first letter to the Thessalonians, chapter 5, verse 18, NASB)

My last 4 blog posts have been about thanking God in every circumstance of our lives – when things go right and when everything goes wrong. Even when life is incredibly painful. In all of these times, I believe it pleases God for us to say, “Alhamdulillah!” (Arabic) or “Thank God” (English) – from our hearts.

But. . .I want to make something very clear. From my viewpoint, thanking God when everything is going wrong is not masochism – deriving pleasure from one’s own pain. No, absolutely not.

Neither is it fatalism – the view that we have no power to influence the future. Fatalism is an attitude of resignation that all future events are inevitable. Once, again, no. I do not hold to that. Absolutely not.

While I believe God is in absolute control of human history, I believe He somehow gives us choices within that control. Those choices influence our lives and the lives of those around us. We are not robots. We have the ability to choose every day.

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How God can be in control and we can simultaneously make choices is hard to comprehend but I believe it. I believe they are both true at the same time.

God also graciously invites us to say specific prayers for what we need or desire (I think you Muslim readers call this making duas). These prayers can also greatly influence our lives and the lives of those around us.

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In conclusion, let us both pray and make wise choices in how we live. If things go wrong after that, let us praise and thank Him – knowing that He is good and loving and wise. That He has allowed difficult things in our lives for a good and loving and wise reason.

In this way, we can say “Alhamdulillah!” (Arabic) or “Thank God” (English) when life is painful without any hint of fatalism or masochism.

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Postscript: I believe trusting in God’s sovereign rule is what also allows us to forgive others when they wrong us vs. taking revenge for the sake of our honor.

In the Bible’s account of Joseph being horribly wronged by his brothers, he is able to forgive them from his heart instead of taking revenge because he understood that God is in control and has a good purpose in allowing any evil that comes into our lives. That’s why Joseph could say to his brothers who hurt him so deeply (in the Tawrat, the book of Genesis, chapter 50, verse 20):

“. . .you planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good.” (The Message)
“. . .you intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.” (NIV)

2 thoughts on “Is It Fatalism (Or Even Masochism) To Say “Alhamdulillah!” When Life Is Painful?

  1. Being able to turn to God when in need, whether due to sickness, struggles at work, raising children, or in times of decision making has changed my life. I don’t know the answers, but I trust that my loving Father God does. He will bring good out of hardship. He gives insight into life’s situations. I remember praying for my 2 year old son who had no desire to obey us, that God would be at work in his heart and give him an obedient heart. I knew that God could reach where we could not. Driving to work as a high school teacher I would pray for my students and for the ability for me to be loving and creative as a teacher. It gave me peace in my spirit as I set the day in the Lord’s care and control. I remember days when ideas would pop into my head for a good way to explain a concept or when I would notice a student who needed encouragement.
    God isn’t distant. What a joy to know this! God really is a loving God I can trust with all areas of my life.

    • Thanks, Nan. Yes, so true – God is not far away!

      Ephesians 3:20 Good News Translation (GNT)
      “To him who by means of his power working in us is able to do so much more than we can ever ask for, or even think of. . .”

      Ephesians 3:20 Living Bible (TLB)
      “Now glory be to God, who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of — infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes.”

      Ephesians 3:20 The Message (MSG)
      “God can do anything, you know — far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!”

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