Monday, November 23, 2009

The Four Blessings

It’s the week of Thanksgiving and I am compiling my thankful list. I am thankful my family is coming to Atlanta! I am thankful I can get out my mother’s china and set a beautiful table for lots of people I love. I am thankful there are little children who will be running around, pulling the dog’s tail, playing with my children’s outgrown toys. I am thankful we have a comfortable home in which to welcome everyone and plenty of food to share. I am thankful for my friends, my health, and my family’s health, the beauty of the world, my country and my heritage. Most of have much for which to be thankful. If we included our troubles the list would be endless.

But I haven’t heard too many people give thanks for their troubles. I know we will give thanks around our table without mentioning our bouts with sickness, death, surgeries, moves, job uncertainty, and hopefully politics! We want to gather together and give thanks for the good. We quietly try to fix the bad ourselves if we can. We close our hearts and remove ourselves. Sometimes we try to find meaning in our suffering by doing things for other people. But sometimes we hurt so badly we can’t. And we might wonder if God even knows our troubles – we wonder if He is paying attention or if He could have possibly forgotten us.

As soon as I post this, I will polish silver and chop celery, but my mind will be focused on another family who waits for the hour they must say good-bye to their child - this week of Thanksgiving. I know that pain. I know that devastation and emptiness that draws you down to brokenness and despair. So it seems rather pedantic to me this year to simply run through the “thankful” list without spending a little time on the one to whom we give thanks - God himself. I am reminded of the verse in Job where he questions “Do we thank God in only the good times? Should we not thank Him in the bad times?” I think he said something like “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
How do we do that when our hearts are breaking?

I am not so far along in my grief that I don’t still feel the sting of loss like others who are now walking this road. It all comes back too real. But in my own effort to “find meaning in the suffering” I ran across a book that provided some encouragement. Mack Stokes, author of Talking With God says “When amid suffering and grief, we open our souls to him in prayer, we receive at least four blessings of importance.”

As I study that quote, I see there is a condition for those blessings – opening our souls to him in prayer. Let’s assume that we all know how to open our souls to God. Here are the blessings. I am glad to know that he said “at least four”. Maybe there are hundreds.

1. Despite our problems, when we open our souls to him in prayer, we become profoundly aware of God’s presence. He says that the weaker and more inadequate we are, the stronger God’s presence becomes and then we know that God will never leave us for forsake us.

2. Despite our suffering, when we open our souls to him in prayer, we become profoundly aware of the vastness of God’s far-reaching capabilities; it is one thing to know he goes with us through life and death, but another to experience the mysterious far-reaching ranges of his love.

3. Despite our pain and uncertainties, when we open our souls to him in prayer, we discover and new appreciation for others and the role they play in being used by the Holy Spirit to comfort and hold us. In turn, we learn how to love others.

4. Despite our loss, when we open our souls to him in prayer, God opens up a new vision for us where we can move. It might not be right away – it might take some time, but God makes us aware of others and gives us opportunities to heal and grow. He gives us new possibilities.

“When we open our souls to him in prayer” amazing things happen. I am thankful for these four blessings:

God will never leave me

God’s love for me is vast, mysterious, and far-reaching

God holds my hands through the use of others who are obedient to Him

God has a plan for me and provides new possibilities for His glory

If you think about just these four blessings a while – open your soul to him in prayer - they will leave you breathless and wondering like the words by Mercy Me:

“Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus or in awe of you be still
Will I stand in your presence or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine”