Grateful even for the Storms
“He lifted me out of the pit of destruction, out of the sticky mud. He stood me on a rock and made my feet steady.” Psalm 40:2 (NCV)
Our family has a Thanksgiving tradition where we go around the table and share what we are thankful for as we remember how God had blessed us that year.
It starts out with simple things: marriage, a new baby in the family or a promotion at work. And then there’s that one teenage cousin who always says something about pizza.
Just as the comments quiet down, a family member — never the same person from year to year — turns the entire room to silence with a story of God’s faithfulness to them through heartache. The Kleenex box is retrieved from the hall bathroom, and it’s passed down the line to soak up all the tear-drenched faces.
There are tears of joy and even tears of sorrow and grief. The tears come from a gratefulness to God for walking beside them during a health issue or the loss of a loved one. For God remaining steadfast when they were lonely, desperate and brokenhearted. Even if the storm is still raging, they feel His presence.
Everyone has different family traditions, but we all encounter the storms of life. Harsh and threatening as they seem at first, storms have the ability to pave a unique path to thankfulness.
November is an especially thank-filled time for me. This year marks the fourth anniversary of my biggest storm yet — brain surgery to remove a tumor. Learning to trust God through the excruciating headaches, dizziness and mental confusion, and relying on His strength, instead of my own, was a blessing in disguise.
Sleepless nights gave way to prayers, and surrendering my expectations turned my sadness to joy. Despite the long road to recovery, I was able to accept God’s will and even be thankful for it.
When life is easy, gratefulness is easy. But not in the storms. Not in the worried nights of anxiety or the lonely house begging for the sound of a familiar voice. Not in the empty nursery or pocketbook. Not in the hospital when pacing the waiting room hoping for good news. Gratefulness hinges on our willingness to accept God’s will over our own. Accepting that He is in control, and we can trust Him.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, we see God’s instruction to always be thankful: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
In the storms of life, God is our only hope. His faithfulness and His goodness are present even during the darkest storm. It might not happen immediately, but thankfulness grows as we cling to Him. We are grateful not only for the joys of restored health and overcoming grief, but for the sorrows that brought us to a place of utter dependence on Jesus.
This Thanksgiving — before your family digs into the pumpkin pie — reflect on what God has done this year. Offer gratitude not only for the “easy-sailing” blessings, but also for the storms.
Read Psalms 139:13-16
David, the great psalmist, sings praises to the God who created him and watched over him even as he was growing in his mother’s womb.
Some years ago, my mum disclosed that my brother and I were adopted. At first, I was shaken, But I wasn’t shaken loose. Even as the underpinnings of my world were shifting radically, they were resettling in a more secure place.
The truth of God’s love was holding me together.
I knew God loved me, unquestionably, unconditionally, whether I was adopted or not. His love is relentless, unyielding, passionate, unfailing, perfect. A feeling of peace, supernatural peace, engulfed me. Everything was going to be okay. That may seem like an odd conclusion, in light of the fact that my life, or at least everything I’d thought I knew about my life, was unraveling before my eyes. Nevertheless, I felt undaunted because of an unchanging, never-failing truth:
God was in control of my life.
For more than a decade, I’d immersed myself daily in God’s Word. I had memorized countless verses about God’s love for me. I desperately needed His love, and when I read how He loved me, I soaked it up. I meditated upon those words, pondered and prayed over them. I found life in them. The words contained promises that excited me. Now those promises were holding me.
The truth you store up in silence comes back to you in the storm and lifts you away as on a life raft from the fears and disappointments that would otherwise pull you under. When you abide in His Word, He abides in you.
God knew me and loved me before I was even me. He knew me before I was born, and throughout my adoption, and He knew me even now that I wasn’t sure who I was anymore. He loved me despite any trouble I found myself in or challenges I faced. I could mess up or melt down and He would love me still. I could be ashamed of where I came from or try to hide who I was, and God would still love me, knowing me better than I knew myself. He loved me so much that He would always have my back in any challenge or distress, and He would go before me through anything unknown.
I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. – Matthew 16:18 ESV
Arthur Coxe was the son of a well-known minister. Born in New Jersey in 1818, he went on to become an important pastor, church leader, and composer of many hymns.
One of his most memorable compositions describes his insights into the nature of the kingdoms of this world. Written in 1839, “O Where Are Kings and Empires Now?” urged worshipers to realize how limited human power is, how little we really understand, and how quickly the things of this world change. Coxe asked, “O where are kings and empires now of old, that went and came”? In contrast, God never changes. His kingdom always is secure.
Churches may be attacked. Believers may make mistakes. But in spite of opposition, the church lasts throughout every storm and controversy: “Unshaken as eternal hills, immovable she stands, a mountain that shall fill the earth, a house not made by hands.” How easy it can be to focus on the kingdoms of this world and the things that seem important today. Coxe would urge us to remember that all of these people and things are temporary.
As Paul reminds us, we should not look at the “things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.” Make sure that you focus on God’s Kingdom. For all the things we see around us are just temporary. In contrast, “the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18). These are the things of God!
Streams in the Desert – November 26
Times have changed, but life’s hard times haven’t
And Caleb said unto her, What wouldest thou? Who answered, give me a blessing; for thou hast given me a south land; give me also springs of water. And he gave her the upper springs, and the nether springs (Joshua 15:18-19).
There are both upper and nether springs. They are springs, not stagnant pools. There are joys and blessings that flow from above through the hottest summer and the most desert land of sorrow and trial. The lands of Achsah were “south lands,” lying under a burning sun and often parched with burning heat. But from the hills came the unfailing springs, that cooled, refreshed and fertilized all the land.
There are springs that flow in the low places of life, in the hard places, in the desert places, in the lone places, in the common places, and no matter what may be our situation, we can always find these upper springs. Abraham found them amid the hills of Canaan. Moses found them among the rocks of Midian. David found them among the ashes of Ziklag when his property was gone, his family captives and his people talked of stoning him, but “David encouraged himself in the Lord.” Habakkuk found them when the fig tree was withered and the fields were brown, but as he drank from them he could sing: “Yet will I rejoice in the Lord and joy in the God of my salvation.”
Isaiah found them in the awful days of Sennacherib’s invasion, when the mountains seemed hurled into the midst of the sea, but faith could sing: “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God. God is in the midst of her: she shall not be moved.”
The martyrs found them amid the flames, and reformers amid their foes and conflicts, and we can find them all the year if we have the Comforter in our hearts and have learned to say with David: “All my springs are in thee.”
How many and how precious these springs, and how much more there is to be possessed of God’s own fulness! —A. B. Simpson
I said: “The desert is so wide!”
I said: “The desert is so bare!
What springs to quench my thirst are there?
Whence shall I from the tempest hide?”
I said: “The desert is so lone!
Nor gentle voice, nor loving face
Will brighten any smallest space.”
I paused or ere my moan was done!
I heard a flow of hidden springs;
Before me palms rose green and fair;
The birds were singing; all the air
Did shine and stir with angels’ wings!
And One said mildly: “Why, indeed,
Take over-anxious thought for that
The morrow bringeth! See you not
The Father knoweth what you need?”