Thursday, November 10, 2011


As Thanksgiving Day approaches, many people are taking time to reflect on things that they are thankful for, and I have really enjoyed reading different people's stories.  I recently wrote an article for our church's women's ministries e-magazine on thankfulness, and wanted to share it with you as well.  To sign up for the e-zine (or view past issues), you can click here.

From November's Footnotes:
In February of 2010, I had a conversation with a complete stranger that shook my view of thankfulness.  It frustrated me, challenged me, and through God’s grace, it changed me.

I was in the middle of fighting cancer.  I was bald from chemo, and was losing even my eyebrows and eyelashes.  I was in incredible amounts of pain from treatments.  There were days that the pain was so bad I couldn’t even walk. And in the middle of that, while in yet another doctor’s office, a lady started talking to me.  She had already won her battle with cancer, and was there for a checkup.

Someday,” she said, “You’ll look back and find that you can be thankful for cancer.”

I politely nodded, and privately thought she was crazy.  And thus began a mental and spiritual struggle to figure out what being thankful meant, when examined as a child of God.  That struggle continued through cancer, through realizing I couldn’t have biological children, and through the difficult parts of adopting children out of foster care.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 became a difficult verse to accept: 
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

I kept wanting to add my own caveats to make it more palatable.  “Rejoice always,” - unless of course, the chemo is especially painful that day.   “Pray continually,” - unless, of course, it was hard to tell if God was listening.  “Give thanks in all circumstances.”  This one was nearly impossible to say aloud for months.

There were many things I was able to say I was thankful for.  I was thankful for opportunities that presented themselves through my struggles.  I was thankful to win the battle with cancer.  I was thankful for the two beautiful boys that have come into our family.

But to give thanks for cancer?  To give thanks for infertility?  To give thanks for the circumstances of my kid’s lives before I was their mom?  Time to read a different passage.  Time to try to block out that “this is God’s will for [me] in Christ Jesus.”

But we serve a patient, persistent, loving God who wants our whole heart.  And he kept bringing me back to face this struggle, over and over again, until I finally allowed Him to lead me through it.

I have often said that God works all things for my good and for His glory.  Romans 8:28 promises that God will work all things for the good of those who love him.  It doesn’t say, “most,” it says all.  My heart wanted to argue, “But you don’t understand.  Cancer was awful.  Infertility hurts.  My kid’s lives have been unfair.”  But deep down, God started to reveal to me that my lack of thankfulness showed a deeper lack of trust in His sovereign will.  If he promises to work all things for my good, then the things that happen in my life, whether they feel good or not, are for my benefit.  They are for my growth, they are for my Father’s glory.  And all He asks in return is a trusting, thankful heart.

The more that I choose to trust God, the more that I am able to see that He fulfills his promise of working things for my good.

And so, after much thought and struggle, I am faced with a choice.  Do I choose to trust the overwhelming love of my Savior?  Do I really believe that He will keep his promise to work everything for my good?  If so, then every thing in my life can been seen as a gift from Him.  A gift to be thankful for.

Thank you, God, for cancer.  Through it, you drew me closer to You, and provided opportunities to share Christ's love that I would not have had otherwise.

Thank you, God, for infertility.  Through it, you have given me a passion for orphans, and shown me how much You love adoption.

Thank you, God, for my kid’s backgrounds.  May it cause them to be ever thankful of the overwhelming, consistent, all-encompassing love that You offer.  

To be clear, I have never said that I enjoyed cancer, infertility, or other life struggles.  They still felt awful.  They were still very painful.  But the difference for me has been that when I see them as a gift from God, they draw me closer to Him and remind me to look forward to eternity with Jesus - an eternity with no more sorrow, and no more pain.  It’s not a change of feelings, it’s a change of heart.

I love to thank God for the fun things.   I love to thank Him for the fact that I have two amazing boys and a wonderful husband.  I love to thank Him for beautiful fall days filled with sunshine.  But I have also found so much peace in learning to thank him for the things that are painful.  I have found rest in trusting that obedience to 1Thess 5:16-18 is part of His will for my life.  

Choosing to obey the instruction to “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances” has brought me joy.  And it has helped me to understand the heart of God just a little bit more. 

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