Wednesday, March 4, 2015

When It's Hard to Give Thanks

This year, I've committed to work through the discipline of thankfulness. I am going through Ann Voskamp's Joy Dare, challenging me to find three unique gifts in each day.

This has been more encouraging and insightful than I would have ever imagined. I did not quite realize how thoughtlessly I barreled through days, not pausing to reflect on the people around me, the God in the midst of us, the beauty all around. This practice, of meditating each day on Joy and Thankfulness, is proving to be somewhat transforming for me. Something as simple as "three things green" will turn my thoughts toward the goodness of God in the mundane of life. And finding goodness in the mundane is transforming.

There are three ladies that have joined me in this, along with a smattering of others that jump in on occasion, and their input, their perspectives on Joy and Thankfulness, have been equally encouraging.

Today's challenge? Today's is truly a challenge.

Three gifts hard to give thanks for.

And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Eph. 5:20

This is much harder said than done -- Giving thanks for things I am not thankful for. To be honest, I'm not sure even what that looks like. In my wonderings, this is about all I've come to:  to learn to give thanks for the God Who is present in all things.

Having said that, here are three gifts that are hard to be thankful for:

1. The pain we have experienced in the community of the Church. We have experienced both the best and worst of relationships in this broken-but-becoming-whole community. And it took a long time, but I am thankful, even in the pain, because it has forged the stuff of life in me. Some chose to leave. Some just gave up, weary. Some felt they must leave. And I get that. If I weren't a pastor's wife, honestly, I probably would have as well. But I couldn't leave...and now I am grateful. It has taught me that life and relationship are most often found in slogging through the hard and painful parts together.

2. My children sometimes choosing paths that I do not know or understand or even agree with. It is hard to watch the ones you love the most make choices you fear (read "know") will bring them pain. But I have found a faithful God in this place. Faithful to my children, right where they are. Faithful to walk through each stage of this journey with us - redeeming our failures and never wasting an experience - even the wrong or painful ones. And sometimes? Sometimes, in God's twisted sense of humor, I get to learn that what I was sure was a horrible mistake is exactly what they should have done.

3. The "unfair" pain... Dylan's battle with depression, the pain of Thomas's past - the day-to-day struggles these unfair circumstances cause.  We all have versions of this kind of pain. We don't deserve it. It's not fair. It's not right. It would be easy to blame God for allowing such things. He is, after all, sovereign, and yet these things did happen. It would be easy to become cynical, bitter, angry.

Here's what I learned in this place: The God I used to know - the one that owed me good things because I'd lived obedient and faithful - that God had to go. But the God I found in the pain? He is faithful. He is present. He is a constant presence in these struggles.

He knew depression. He knew abuse. He knew rejection and loneliness. He knew injustice. He knew hunger. He knew pain. And He knows our pain. He lives through each of those painful, sometimes horrific experiences, with us. With my children. 

He is God With Us.

So I'll be thankful. This year. This moment.  Sometimes it is easy, sometimes it is a sheer act of obedience and faith.

Moment by moment.

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