I have so much to be thankful for. In no particular order (other than the first 2), I thank God for my Savior Jesus Christ. That He would willingly take my place for my sins boggles the mind, but I am eternally grateful that He did! Second is another gift God has given me, my wife Betsy. The most a grace-filled, loving, patient, brilliant; the list goes on, person I have ever known. To realize that before time began our Creator had it so planned that she and I would spend so many years together is another mind-blowing event that I am thankful each and every day.
There is so much more: my two adult kids, my good health, my sobriety, my friends, my dog. It could (and should) go on and on. I was told very early in recovery that gratitude is an action word, meaning that if I am truly grateful for what I have received, my face, actions and words ought to reflect that fact. For these more obvious things that have come my way, I think I do a pretty good job showing how thankful I am for them.
But something else has come to mind recently about which I am far too slack in giving thanks for: the challenges and problems that I face. That they occur shouldn’t be a surprise. Jesus even tells us so: “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33, emphasis added).
Jesus gives us so many promises in the Bible: I am with you always, my sheep know my voice, I’m going to prepare a place for you, etc. These and so many others are exciting, fulfilling and comforting promises. And He always does what He says He’s going to do, never once deceiving us. Therefore, the promise that there is going to be troubles is also true. If I’m going to accept the ‘good’ ones, I have to accept the others as well.
But being thankful for troubles and trials? Why, you might ask, should I or anyone be grateful for the issues that come up in life? With so much bad in the world, why not just count as blessings the good I have experienced. The answer for me lies in the fact that without the challenges and struggles, I too quickly become lethargic about being thankful. When I stop giving thanks for the bounty that surrounds me, I become lazy in giving praise to God. If I allow this to go on for long, a feeling of entitlement can start to grow. Left unchecked, I can get to full-blown complacency in a very short time.
Thankfully, God knows this about me even better than I do. It’s not that He is up there in his throne room keeping score on my gratitude meter, but rather that He allows the various challenges and things that make me struggle come my way so that I will keep Him in the proper place in my heart and mind.
It seems I grow the most in my faith when I can get over my wounded pride or selfishness or whatever other shortcoming gets illuminated during a trial or conflict and come to that place where I simply trust God and His sovereignty. Without fail, when I realign my heart with God’s during these times, He will point out some aspect of my life that needs to get reined in; or maybe better said that I bring this area to Him, humbly asking that He lead me in the way He would have me go in regard to it.
Like most, I seem to learn best from my mistakes. Now if I could just stop screwing up the lessons might be over! However, my track record would indicate that more mess-ups are likely. I’m trusting that with each one God will help me to turn to Him more quickly, thus shortening the time that I need to suffer or be at a loss of how to go on.
God is faithful. He has seen me through even trial and tribulation I have ever faced. His track record is perfect; as is everything about Him. I am thankful for this truth. I am thankful for every struggle that has brought me to know this more fully and I’ll be thankful in the future when these types of things come up against me, because I know I am under His complete care. When I remember that, I am indeed so very grateful for everything in my life.