Friday, November 21, 2014

Giving thanks through trials

This time of year "thanks" is all the buzz word. We're reminded of the importance of thankfulness, of turning our hearts toward gratitude in an effort to refocus on the important. We try desperately to prepare our hearts for the upcoming holiday season, wanting this year to be different.

Listing our thanks, putting pen to paper in an effort to recognize our blessings certainly makes us more aware. Some things come easily, no effort required to give thanks. Family, friends, a job we love, a home to share, a full pantry. These are easy. Smiles on our faces, we lift our hands and say, "Thank you Lord!"

But what about the "blessings" that don't come so easily? What about the ones that look nothing like blessings at all, but instead come wrapped in messiness and pain? Lamentations 3:37 reminds us that nothing happens unless the Lord allows it. If we believe the Lord's plans for us are for good and not for evil and that nothing will happen to us that He will not use, then isn't it safe to say that the pain is also a gift? A messy blessing bestowed on us by the Giver of all good things? Is it possible to move from viewing our struggle as simple a source of pain to part of His plan to show us more of himself?

I don't want to simply thank Him when it's easy. To stand before the Creator of the Universe listing off my thanks like a Christmas wish list, but to kneel in reverance in the midst of pain. To stand, hands raised and tears streaming because I know nothing we experience is ever wasted. Nothing we go through cannot be used by the One who allows it to happen. 

The only way I've found to live out this type of gratitude is knowing where to keep my focus. Eyes on my circumstances leads to fear, worry and despair. In a moment's time it will suck me under. That's all it takes and before I know it I am consumed with everything but thanksgiving. Eyes on my Savior means there is no room for despair, no time for worry. How can I marvel at his faithfulness while allowing fear to consume me? The two can't exsist together. Focusing on God's goodness opens my eyes in a new way to my circumstances and I begin to see Him in it all. In every single ugly, gut wrenching detail. And I give thanks.

Thanks for the niceties makes us feel warm and fuzzy. Thanks for the heartbreaking, the unexpected, the stuff that leaves you reeling...that type of understanding brings you to a whole new level of gratitude and allows you to see God in ways you never expected. Warm and fuzzy is nice, but hearing the heartbeat of Jesus and feeling Him holding your hand trumps warm and fuzzy any day.

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