Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Thankful in the ugly mess of life

"God is quietly planning for you in love... His plans to conform us to Christ's image are the best plans ever! Let us each look for His good hand even in adversity and times of uncertainty!"

Through the years I've seen so many hurts, disappointments in my own life, but often in the lives of dear ones surrounding me. Thankfulness and the right attitude amidst the messes isn't always easy, but it is something I must continue to learn.

"Why is she so happy and using social media to give thanks to God? While I sit here overwhelmed and struggling after losing a baby to miscarriage.?" That was my fleshly thought as I read an individual's post regarding how thankful she was about a trial the Lord was allowing in her families lives.  But, in reality, that was from my heart too.  I just couldn't understand it.  And, the more I happened across her post the more irritated I became.  "Perhaps she's just posting it that way to get attention or sympathy. Maybe she is just insecure." But, after a simple private message I began to truly see this friend's heart.  She was completely thankful even in one of the toughest things God had sent her way.  She had chosen to praise Him despite the awful pain this trial had caused. Then, it happened.... She challenged me to study thankfulness out on my own.  

It was a tough time in our lives in more ways than one. My heart was overwhelmed with our own hurts, but my heart hurt having to watch my momma struggle through cancer from hundreds of miles away.  I never shook my fist at God, but I never thought nor wanted to give thanks for any of this.  Immediately after receiving that sweet message from a truly thankful heart I set to work studying this gift called thankfulness. It has been years, and I certainly do not have it down.  I often am rebuked and reminded how much more enjoyable my life is when my heart and mind are indeed thankful. The ugliness without it tends to push me back into the right way of thinking. 
"One Thousand Gifts" was one of several books I began to study.  After I began my grateful journal, I began to see myself finding joy and thankfulness in seemingly impossible situations! I was more prone to being thankful for the little things that I once took for granted. A few weeks went by and I was able to finally do something that the Lord had impressed on my heart for years---a ladies Bible study in our home. What a privilege to reach out to ladies in all walks of life only to realize that ungratefulness amidst the ugly messes life brings is quite the natural in all.  So, we set out to work on a task that was not easy, but so eternally rewarding. "Give thanks" He says! Always?  

  • Even when I long for a baby and the doctors say it won't happen? 
  • Even when I've lost another dear angel through miscarriage?  
  • Even when my spouses body is overcome with cancer?  
  • Even when I find our marriage suffering?  
  • Even when my husband is out of work? 
  • Even when.....?  
Those were just a few of those ugly mess situations that were on the hearts of the ladies in our group. It was hard. Hard to hear, hard to truly understand some (having never been through them all myself).  However, what a joy to run to God's Word and be reminded that He has a path for each of us... Far different indeed, but in the end He still expects the same for each of His children...To finish well the race He's set before us. 
Are you running your race well? Or are you wallowing in a pool of self pity irritated at those who are joyful and thankful even amidst their own trials? Often it's easy to jump on social media and see the good stuff in people's lives, but do you truly know their hearts and their situations? I find it interesting that so many hate only seeing life's perfect situations when it comes to facebook, etc. Then, when people actually do share the nitty gritty of life they are hounded on for being too personal, complaining, desiring sympathy etc. Who are we to judge?  Do we really know the intents of their hearts?  Perhaps they truly do have a heart of gratitude amidst a huge trial! Just like that sweet friend years ago reminded me that it IS possible to give outward praise to God for even the worst of situations humanely speaking. And, perhaps the reason it irritates us so much is because our heart wreaks of ingratitude amidst the trial God currently has us within?!

I am still learning and feel like I fail often at not giving thanks as I should. My God is big and has a perfect plan even in those times when it's hard to understand and easy to question His love and faithfulness. What a help to know that we need to "be still... and KNOW He is God." 
Dear friend, are you in the middle of a messy valley or soaring high on a mountain peak? In all of these may we truly have a heart of gratitude to the ONE who has us in His hands! 
Hugs to each of you in the midst of your own struggles today!