I have become keenly aware this past year that when I resist change, complain or focus on my problems, I feel weak. The more I submit to a defeated mindset, the weaker I become. However, when I replace negative, life-sucking thoughts with prayers of gratitude to God, I feel a surge of power within.
Gratitude adds power to my life but complaining decreases my energy and makes me weak.
Have you discovered this phenomenon also?
We all know that gratitude is effortless when we are feeling healthy, the kids are doing well, our relationships are harmonious, the finances are looking good, and we can get away for a week to enjoy moments of reflection as we sit on a white sand beach where the warmth of the sun and the rhythm of the ocean waves serve as a lullaby for much needed sleep.
I thank God for any moments of harmony and peace in my life, but it is in the middle of my messes and failures and emotional and physical pain that the muscle of gratitude can be exercised and developed in my mind and heart. In fact, I now understand that the seeds of gratitude must be buried in the soil of pain and suffering before it can take root, produce a bud and eventually blossom.
In the Bible, the book of James 1:2-5, has something to say about trials and temptations
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5
If your goal in life is happiness, then most likely you’ll think this verse is ridiculous and not realistic to obey. But if your goal in life is joy, then you’ll understand that joy thrives in the presence of pain. Happiness is fleeting and circumstantial, but joy runs deep through the good times and the bad times and always produces the fruit of a greater faith and a maturing of the soul.
This verse teaches me that joy knows how to persevere. Joy also understands that faith will be tested and that the goal is to become mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Here is a recap of my life in the past 12 months. In November of 2017 my younger sister died of cancer. Then in December of 2017, while my marriage of 24 years was ending in divorce, I worked a 40 hour week, went to my physical therapy appointments to expand my rib cage and relieve the extreme pain in my left arm caused by thoracic outlet syndrome, worked hard with Kevin to sell our house in Bend and empty it of its contents and spent hours on the phone organizing a move to my new home in Medford, Oregon of which I would be moving into alone in January. When I was staying at a friend’s house in Eugene, Oregon just days before Christmas, we had to rush my dog to the vet and watch her be euthanized.
In January 2018 I moved into my home in Medford, Oregon and attended my sister’s memorial in Indiana. In February 2018 I got the call that my mother passed away in a nursing home in Port Richey, Florida, and I attended her memorial service in Chicago. Then in September 2018, after 5 months of grieving and beginning to find my footing, I was given a stage 1 cancer diagnosis of invasive ductal carcinoma in my right breast. I’ll start my radiation treatments on Monday, November 26th and my treatment will be finished during the last week of December 2018. What a wonderful way to end the most difficult year of my life knowing that I don’t have to undergo Chemo. My cancer was caught at a very early stage.
Now if I end this blog post here, you would be missing the bigger picture of what really happened to me this past year. What I haven’t told you yet is the miraculous ways God has worked in my heart to understand the significance of “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.”
In the past 12 months God has been my good shepherd, caring for me deeply. When I was cast like a sheep, He set me back upright on my feet. When I felt like I was living in scarcity, He led me to green pastures and clear streams. When I felt confused and ashamed at the failure of my marriage, God gently showed me my mistakes and sins but told me he loved me anyway. All these losses in my life brought sleepless nights, days spent in tears, mornings desperately seeking God’s wisdom in the Bible, earnest prayers asking God for strength to make it through the day and hours spent talking to close friends as I tried to make sense of my thoughts.
In the past 12 months, I have been getting to know my brothers and sisters in Christ in the Rogue Valley Church. We are family. Church is more than attending a worship service on Sunday. God gave me my posse of older women friends to hang with. We call ourselves, “moms of millennial’s.” Every Monday evening, we rotate meeting at each other’s homes and have a meal and read the Bible together. We speak honestly about our struggles and share our hopes and dreams. My daughter, Lian, moved in with me in June to attend Southern Oregon University and Hannah moved in with us in September. She is a spunky, 22-year-old college student who is also a member of our church. These two girls are teaching me how to listen and seek to understand and not to interrupt when they are speaking. 😊
But most of all, these past 12 months have stirred within my soul a renewed hope in heaven. Before I know it, my human life on this earth is going to be like a fleeting dream. I can’t wait to see Jesus, who Isaiah says is “a man of suffering.” Thank you, Jesus, for taking the hit for me on the cross and being such a great example of living a life of joy and gratitude as explained in Hebrews 12:2:
“For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Do you want to experience the power of gratitude? Then open your arms wide and embrace all the pain and suffering in your life. As you stop resisting change and the pain and seek God with gratitude, you’ll start experiencing joy way deep down in your heart, and no one or anything can take it away from you. It will run deep and long and wide.