Generally, we are only as thankful as our feelings about the last thing that’s happened to us.
I think that’s true, but I’d love to hear your thoughts.
It takes effort to make a gratitude list. Though we may talk about our blessings, few of us actually sit down on a daily basis and consider what they really are. It’s especially difficult to do so when times are sad or hard.
On a beautiful Thursday morning this past spring, a group of women met at my friend Laura’s farmhouse for food and fellowship. Among them was a fair lady named Lin who, though she had been suffering for about 5-6 years with Parkinson’s and cancer, was not giving up on life. She was serving at her church, attending Bible study, and reaching out to friends to encourage them in their struggles.
Two seasons and many months later, on another Thursday morning in October, Lin’s body reached the end of its usefulness to her, and the Lord took her home. The nurses on watch in her last hours reported that she went peacefully.
Thursdays are when I gather with my friends to study God’s Word; it seemed natural that we should be together – a group who had prayed for Lin for a long, long time – when we learned of her passing.
Our parish priest spoke to our grieving group and said, “The Lord always answers our prayers, though often not in the way we’d like,” and reminded us that God had answered our many prayers to restore Lin to fullness of health – in heaven.
Then, as we remembered together, Laura said,
“I thought she always had a little bit of an edge.”
I caught myself smiling, because I knew exactly what Laura meant.
“But in the last year,” she continued, “it was like she softened somehow. When we were all at my house, I asked her, ‘HOW are you doing this? Living with all this?’ She said she didn’t want anyone to feel sorry for her, because she felt it had made her less self-centered. More compassionate. More caring towards other people.”
Did you get that?
A woman who had suffered for years – years! – was grateful for the experience.
She had found grace in her suffering.
God had transformed her pain by moving her heart.
We shook our heads. It was incredible to think that Lin had considered herself self-centered. A woman beside Laura said, “She called me to see how I was doing!”
But God knows our innermost being, and if there’s work to be done (hint: there always is), He wants to do it.
Lin’s willingness to allow God into her suffering is what changed her understanding of her life’s circumstances from terrible to acceptable.
Can we ask for the grace to be blessed by the ‘awful’ in our lives?
Can we see beyond it with the eyes of faith, acknowledging a greater purpose?
When life seems to go off-track, and we are threatened by financial trouble, rocky relationships, or health crises, it’s easy to lose trust in God and question His faithfulness to us. We might even blame Him for the things that seem grossly unfair, because we wonder – if He really cared, why would He allow this?
But perhaps we have a small-minded, limited view of happiness.
In His loving embrace, God can use even this – whatever this is – to shape us to be more like Himself – perfectly loving, always desiring the eternal good.
In seeking Him, we find joy and peace to share with others. It’s a path we must take to appreciate.
Psalm 16:10-11 says:
You will not abandon me to Sheol, nor let your faithful servant see the pit.
You will show me the path to life, abounding in joy in your presence, the delights at your right hand forever.
God will not leave us forever in our pits of despair, nor will he let us lie in our misery today if we turn towards Him and say, “Help me, please.”
With Him there is hope for right now.
With Him there is hope for eternity.
May we learn to live like Lin, transformed by the love of God, expectant of the heavenly wonders to come.