Not everyone has consistently good health, and as we age, most of us will deal with new physical and mental problems. Though we can thank God no matter our physical state, I am grateful for this time of well-being He has allowed me. If He has granted us ability, we ought to glorify Him by using it for His will yet, the beauty of His sovereignty is that even, and perhaps especially, in weakness and disability He can be glorified. Stories of strong men and women who not only endured such difficult obstacles, from blindness to surviving severe persecution, but further used them to encourage others to persevere, stand out to me. Similarly, stories of healthy men and women seeking His will in everyday or extreme circumstances also resonate within. God can be glorified in every person and circumstance, and that is a reason we can all be thankful.
I initially wrote this as a list of things I am grateful for, and this week has truly developed an even deeper appreciation toward God for Isaac. A healthy, happy baby is not something we can all thank the Lord for, and while that truly hurts my heart, I have faith that His ways and thoughts are higher than ours. I have been encouraged by the strong families who have gracefully endured hardships regarding childlessness, in whatever form it may come. I am humbled by women who have allowed God to work mightily through them in miscarriages, still-births, or the inability to conceive. I know Christians who have embraced adoption and come to understand more fully the grace and mercy of our Father, and I know Christians who have simply placed their trust and contentment in the Lord, despite what heartache may befall them on this earth. In a much lesser way than those women, I thank God for the unforeseeable works He did through my birthson. There are few personal experiences that blatantly display the awesome power of Almighty God, and I hope to never forget that. Likewise, I now pray that I don’t take this blessing, my son Isaac, for granted and that I will never cease to praise and give thanks to Him.
As I write this, I can look out a large window and see an amazing scene of rich green grass, deep blue water, bright, creamy sand dunes, full and soft clouds against a perfect sky. I’m thankful for the opportunities to appreciate God’s creation, though it certainly shouldn’t be limited to perfect environments and weather. Just yesterday we had non-stop storming, yet without the dullness of that day, I would not have immediately appreciated the beauty of this clear morning. This earth is so full of God, and so many Biblical lessons can be learned from natural processes and creations that can be observed in every place.
We don’t always get along with or even know our biological families, or we may never relate to those certain relatives, but if we have anyone we can call a mother or brother or father or sister, we have been blessed. I’m spending this week in the company of my grandmother, grandfather, great-grandfather (99-years-old!), “aunt” and “uncle” (my grandmother’s brother and his wife) and their daughter and her husband. I don’t have the opportunity to spend time with my extended family very often, so I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this getaway. Most all of us have someone we consider family, whether they’re related by blood or not, and to have people like that who care for you always, is obviously a blessing. Yet, an even greater blessing is the family, the body we become a part of when we are baptized into Christ. We have a heavenly Father who will never forsake us, a Lord and brother who, in the greatest display of love, sacrificed Himself for us, and an immeasurable family that will share in the same inheritance we have been promised. I’ve spent this week in gratitude for loving, entertaining, wise grandparents, but we can always rejoice for our spiritual family, knit together in love and hope, on this earth and forever in heaven.
It’s true, I was thinking of my husband when I typed this. But there are many things that I love, and I sometimes wonder if we’re ever grateful for our emotions. Emotionalism in religion is a dangerous thing, but emotions themselves are God-given. They can be used to accomplish amazing things, or abused and neglected to the point of destruction, yet God has given them to us and given us power over them. Emotion is what drives people to do good works and that shouldn’t be stifled. Emotion allows us to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. Emotion makes empathy possible and keeps us human, or in other words, relate-able to others. And overpowering negative or potentially destructive emotions is how we grow and endure and become stronger disciples. They’re like handy little built-in dumbbells to continuously exercise our faith, but if we ignore them, our strength will weaken, our muscles will lose their tone and problem areas will thicken and multiply. There’s much to say about emotion, but I just want to bring awareness to their existence and usefulness. We could all benefit from either appreciating and allowing our emotions to flourish, or perhaps reigning them in and acknowledging the damage we’ve allowed them to do in our lives.
I don’t know about you (surely, someone out there on the internet will disagree) but I’m thankful the world isn’t composed of millions of Ambers:
Not only in spending quality time with someone other than my husband, but also in keeping in touch with others on the internet have I (perhaps somewhat forcibly at first) come to appreciate the differences we have. In a positive sense, let’s be honest, we’ve all grown from the advice, examples, and differing perspectives, opinions and experiences of people who are not ourselves. I can easily say that my husband has influenced me in becoming a stronger Christian in ways that I’m not sure I could have done alone. Certain conclusions I’ve come to in my life, whether spiritually or otherwise, were the result of conversations with people who simply believed and lived differently than I did. Even when our differences don’t result in any conformity, we should cherish them and allow them to positively shape our mindsets and love for one another. It’s easy to love those who love, think like, and praise us, but loving those who don’t love, agree with or live like us is what our heavenly Father is truly pleased with, and we cannot achieve that without strength, the Holy Spirit and finally: opportunity. Chances are there are plenty of opportunities around, so let’s be thankful for them and strive to live peaceably among all.
Of course, there is a deep peace that comes from relating to someone else. In times of persecution, the early church and those in some parts of the world today, truly needed the support and encouragement from their brethren, from like-minded people enduring the same affliction. This week has also shed light on special people who keep me going in all aspects of life, and I thank God for them. Sometimes, I think we can reach points in our lives when it seems that absolutely no one is on our side, but isn’t it amazing how God’s word provides ample peace and assurance in those times? If we are living to please God, to conform to Him and be similar to Christ, He is sufficient and His word will give us the strength we need and that is simply something to rejoice over!
We are all allowed varying amounts of time on this earth, and none can know when their last day will be. That sobering thought doesn’t need much more explanation except that we should be greatly thankful for God’s longsuffering and we surely should not arrogantly waste His grace toward us. My great-grandfather will be 100 next year! It’s amazing because we don’t hear of that too often. It’s amazing because most of us will likely have a much shorter lifespan; a vapor.
I wouldn’t call relaxing in Michigan much of a trial, but in a very basic sense, this vacation has been bittersweet: I miss my husband! Yet, I’m thankful that God has shown me things I maybe would have been slower to recognize in the midst of the day-to-day at home. It’s so basic that it is
almost a bad example, but nevertheless, when we’re tempted to complain, to focus on the negative, or even to wallow in our very real and very traumatic big trials, we need to turn our faces to God and retain a spirit of thankfulness, even joyfulness. And whenever we recognize that truth or embrace it, we can be thankful.
It’s kind of like the last point, but not really. I was talking to a friend the other day about loving to learn. As Christians, learning is essential, whether it’s learning the scriptures or learning in application. Pride has a way of making us dread or shrink back from mistakes and admitting we were wrong. If it isn’t enough that God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble, just the mere fact that maintaining a humble attitude generally protects us from humiliation, should convince us to lower ourselves voluntarily before circumstances force it upon us. Still, the moment(s) of truth will certainly come where we can either eagerly embrace a learning experience or be overcome by the shame, embarrassment and pain of a wounded ego. Mistakes are going to come, none of us are infallible and without those perfect opportunities for hands-on learning, our faith couldn’t be refined and our spiritual maturity couldn’t…mature. I’m thankful for the ability to learn, and to tie it into #7, how the Lord has so far suffered long with me in my ignorance, pride, sin and immaturity.
Finally, if there’s certainly something we can always be thankful for, it’s God’s word, without which we could never know of our Father’s wondrous plan for mankind. If we have nothing in this world but the Bible, we have all that is necessary.