“Is it really possible? Has another year passed?” I thought, Sunday after church as my husband and I were pulling up frozen weights by net handles out of a sea of plastic wrapped carcasses, in search of the perfect bird. “Do I really want to cook a turkey, didn’t I just do this last week?” Then came a trickle of memories of the years past, then the trickle became a stream, followed by a flood. Good days and bad days, that had all been shoved back and tucked away in my mind, began to fly through my head. They reminded me that indeed, twelve months have passed since I wrestled a slippery, goose-pimpled, headless monster in my sink. I guess the thinking on these things, coupled with a really good sermon on the sovereignty of God, added up to the question that followed, “Am I thankful?”
This hasn’t been the easiest of years. Nothing catastrophic in and of itself, just the overwhelming gnawing of seemingly unresolved problems and uncertainty. My heart has at times felt exhausted and overrun. I have questioned God and wondered, even yelled, “Have you forgotten? Hellooooo?”
Yet, as I look back, I can see that by God’s hand, the bad times were carefully and creatively matched with good and sweet moments, and at times met with new and old family in Christ. There has been an answer for every grief, a gentle kiss from the Father, offering blessing that would have been missed if He had spared me the pain. It is evident that God is truly in control and He has allowed each of these difficulties to come so that I might grow to a better understanding of Him and how He loves me.
Our God allows the trials and tests to strengthen us for the good works He has prepared in advance to do. In His loving wisdom He exercises our faith, challenges our hope, and demands our trust. He calls us to join Him as He looks deep within our hearts and considers our motives. The landscape of our hearts can be such a difficult view to take in, with barren areas, miry pits, and ugly walls of stone… But if we honestly appraise the condition (Psalm 139:23) and willingly hand over the deed to what might otherwise appear to be useless space, our Master Gardener will begin to cultivate a garden that is as abundant as it is lovely in the fruits of His Spirit.
Some of this work is only possible by the Father’s miraculous hand, but much of it He will ask us to do under His loving guidance. Uprooting the dead and lifeless, pruning back the useless, and tearing down walls that keep us from fully experiencing Him. (John 15:1-16) We will see the voids well up with streams of living water and never run dry. Yet none of this is possible without sharp tools, elbow grease, and dirty knees. Knees that learn to love being bent in worship and service, because of the amazing view that is provided from that place of humility while we weed the garden of our hearts under the light of His presence.
A garden of retreat and a place meet with our Father. A place to pick fruit that we can pelt at the troubles that come ~ just kidding, “pelting” is probably not the best metaphor albeit satisfying to think of at times! All in all, it is nothing short of amazing that He can redeem the dirt of our lives, and from it, bring forth such bounty! (Romans 8:28) He is ABLE!
So… YES! I am thankful! Thankful for the opportunity to struggle, as weird as it may sound and as strange as it is to write. The Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Thanks that God would carefully craft the path of my life to involve tailored obstacles to challenge me and establish my dependence on Him. (Matthew 4:4) After all, the joy of the Lord is our strength! (Nehemiah 8:10) What He asks us to give is only that which we have already received according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus! (Philippians 4:19)
Thank You Lord, for loving us enough to prevent us from getting too comfortable, so that we might seek Your face, find You and know You more! (Jeremiah 29:13)
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6-7
You turned my wailing into dancing; You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing Your praises and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will praise you forever. Psalm 30:11-12
But may all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; may those who long for Your saving help always say, “The LORD is great!” Psalm 70:4
Bible references from the New International Version.