How We’re Learning
By Claudia Duff
Adjective: feeling or showing an appreciation of kindness; thankful.
November–the month where everyone seems just a bit happier than usual. For me, I am not sure if it is the break from the heat, the “normal” routine of work and school returns, the beautiful colors of fall, or possibly pumpkin spice EVERYTHING! I will admit it, fall is my favorite season, followed by winter. I do not like being hot.
And if you look around your world, everything is about being grateful, thankful, and blessed. So, much so that it almost feels like we have taken strength from the process of giving thanks. But, that’s a lie from the pit.
Can we ever become too thankful for who our God is? Or lose the depth of gratitude for a God who is close to us? Could we actually lose the blessings of God because we just think about all that we have, too much? Of course not. And I am confident of this because of what the Word of God says,
“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:57 (ESV)
Victory is not circumstantial, it is straight from God. We have nothing to do with it. Gratefulness will follow those who believe; there really is no escape from it. I find it creeps upon me at the most unusual times.
Recently I attended a memorial service for a dear friend. Actually, he was more than a dear friend, he was more a faithful friend who had earned such a precious part of my heart. I wept for the loss, with big tears and snot.
But, in the midst, I mean right in the middle of crying and shaking and finding it hard to even catch my breath, gratefulness showed up in a big way.
I became so overwhelmed by the thought of, “Thank you, Jesus that you allowed this precious soul to become a part of my story!” I didn’t see it coming ya’ll, but there it was–a sincere heart of gratitude. I wish I could tell you that made sense to me and that I knew immediately what to do with it, but I didn’t.
Gratefulness in the depth of sorrow makes no sense to me. My heart was wrecked and, in the middle, I was thankful for the wreckage. Thankful for the hurt, sorrow, and grief. Who does that? We do, those who name the name of Christ; we do that. Not because we are so super spiritual, but because our God is.
God is super spiritual and He, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, lives in us and that makes us brave.
Brave enough to become grateful in the hard places. To be thankful for the awful stuff and yes, even feel blessed when all around us is screaming, broken. The depth of my sorrow for the loss of my faithful friend was solely fueled by my love for him. I loved him dearly here on earth and never imagined my world without him in it. The loss is profound and there is no way around it. But, the sorrow is only present because of the love and that makes me grateful. I am so grateful that I got to love him here and now and that one day we will rejoice together in heaven.
I began to say in my heart, “Lord, I am so grateful for Dad Larson. Thank you for sharing him with me.” Did I stop crying? No, I actually began to weep even more. But, the gratitude was still present and so was the sadness.
I don’t get to escape that part, yet. But, we who know Jesus weep with a hope. Not just with the hope of heaven, but with the instant hope that our hearts are broken because the love is so deep and God will fill the void.
God will be the difference between hopelessness and peace here on earth.
How to be Gratefully Brave:
- Remember that our God is a God of comfort. He is glorified in the midst of our sufferings when we look to Him to meet all of our needs, especially the ones that overwhelm our hearts with grief and sorrow. Journaling my prayers brings me great comfort and a way to say all of the words that are trapped in my tears. “To comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit.” Isaiah 61:2b-3a (ESV)
- Allow someone into your place of sadness. As believers we are commanded to love in ways that are sacrificial. Ask the Lord to bring someone into your life to walk with you through the valley of the shadow of death. Not everyone is able, but there are many who are. “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.” Romans 12:15-16 (ESV)
- Know and understand that you are precious to God. It will give you courage when you feel that you are falling short of brave. It is in the strength of God that you will stand and be brave. “You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” Psalm 56:8 (ESV)
Gratitude is what makes us get up, go, and keep moving forward. So, in this season of all things grateful, be grateful, be thankful, and yes, even be blessed.
Your world around you right now may not look anything like these words, but your God sure is all of these words and more. He is more than enough to fill your grateful bucket.
Praying that as you move through this season of thankfulness you are daily reminded of God’s blessings. Not in just the big ways of rescuing our hearts and renewing our minds, but rather in the dailiness of the commissary, doctor and dentist appointments, picking up kids in the carpool line, and in the laundry (yes, dirty clothes can be spiritual). My prayer is that you experience a grateful heart in all of these things.
Lord, I am indeed grateful for Your presence in the depths of my sorrow. I am grateful for the peace You grant in the darkest of places and the joy You have promised even in my brokenness. As I look to You for comfort, I pray that You will truly turn my ashes into beauty. In Your name, amen.