So this month as a family we are focusing our conversations around GRATITUDE. Christmas is not here yet! Poor little November and Thanksgiving. Always gets leap frogged.
As I “teach” my kids about gratitude, the more I really dig in, I realize gratitude is getting messier as I grow deeper in my faith. We made a gratitude tree and each night we clip a clothespin on it with something we are thankful for.
There is a lot in the surface of my life I am grateful for: our church, my husband’s job, 4 amazing kids, a growing and caring marriage, family close by, etc. But the more I really think about the moments in my life where it was the most impactful and thus I am the most grateful, I realize those moments at the time were the deepest valleys, the heaviest weights, the sharpest of pains.
God is taking me to a place in my walk with him that I am most thankful for my moments of suffering. It wasn’t something that could’ve been muttered in the moment, in the moment, on the contrary, I was shouting at him, clawing to get out of the pit, or empty and angry.
As he brings me out of different challenges, I see looking back that in my suffering I am so near to him. In my hardest times I am clinging to him with desperation and dependency.”
I am drinking in the Word like it is my only water source. Then when life gets “easy” again, I tend to go on autopilot or coast through my relationship with him without recognizing that level of dependence still should exist.
I thought on my drive home last night, what were some of the moments I felt most alive with God and thus so grateful for, I came up with a tough list… clinging to the leg of my best friend of 10 years as he took his last breath, walking the streets of a country hostile to Christians and feeling the physical weight press on my chest for God’s love for them, praying over my new child with my husband as she was just a shell of a girl overcome by trauma and grief, the impossible weeks that followed in a violent country where I was being tested from every direction, the days where my marks of motherhood were spit in my face, claw marks on my chest, and a child that ran from me.
Those are the glory days of my faith.
Not when I felt like I had it all together and health, wealth and happiness all lined up in a pretty package for me.
Maybe you’re in a season of suffering and not in the mood to say “thanks God” – because the hurt is real and because you cannot see where this could possibly be good. I have been there too. But looking back, I can absolutely see where He grew me. Hang in there.
So as we clip our moments of gratitude on our tree I see it is not just me that is thankful for the messier things in life:
- my son has clipped on God cleaning out the yuck in his heart
- our daughter that we are made creatively unique
- our other daughter wrote her birth mother and that God gives us joy when we are sad
Our tree from the outside is not a pretty picture of words like money, health, and happiness; although we are deeply grateful for such things.
This simple exercise leads to a shift in the outlook on my life. Instead of spending my days anxious over future suffering or avoiding it at all costs, I am finding a new level of trust and peace in what he has for me.
As I wrote a letter to a friend who is struggling to belong, fighting identity in Christ, wrestling with the pain of her adoption, I thanked God for giving me a space to prepare myself. It will most likely be my daughter in that place, he could be preparing my heart to walk through this with my child. As John and I have walked several couples through affair and divorce, where I used to be overcome with anxiety hoping it doesn’t happen to me, I have traded it for a quiet trust, a trust that knows my circumstance is not at the root of my joy, a Good God is.
A God who works all things together for my good, even if that means suffering. It is a freeing place. And although I still selfishly desire an easy, comfortable life, I know deeper that may not be the way God wants to draw me to himself. I am reminded of sitting in a church in Kenya as a man stood up to say “I just need to thank God for AIDS, getting HIV was like gold to me, otherwise I would not know Jesus how I do now.”
This is the life I want.
Grateful in ALL things.
Having a new lens and a new perspective to see the pain and hardship we will walk through. So come what may, it is well. I believe He knows, I believe He is good… to me, I believe he works all things for my good and his glory. Like the words of Mr. Beaver in The Lion, the Witch and the wardrobe, “Safe? said Mr. Beaver; “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the king I tell you.”
Do you find gratitude in the messier parts of your life?
How can gratitude shift our perspective of tough circumstances?”