Where does thankfulness originate? Is it something we celebrate once a year with stuffing and turkey and all of the fixings, or does it truly begin the in heart? A particular Scripture that I’ve often pondered is from I Thessalonians 5:18, “In everything, give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” Could life really be that simple? Does something happen within the person who chooses thankfulness over grumbling and complaining about a happenstance?
Over the years, I have known several people who have faced severe challenges, times that could have led them toward having a grumbly spirit. But instead, I have seen these every-day people choose to look for a reason to be grateful, in the midst of the trying times. One of my friends was returning from taking her three elementary-aged children to dancing lessons, when less than a mile from her home, she was t-boned by a cement truck. While she experienced a brain injury that would alter her abilities for the rest of her life, once she awakened from the coma, she immediately was thankful that her children had escaped the collision with relatively minor injuries, though one did require hospitalization for a while and some follow-up treatments.
Another friend’s husband suffered an aneurysm that suddenly burst where he narrowly escaped with his life and caused him to lose his kidney and spleen. Following a second aneurysm, it was discovered that he had immature, weak blood vessels, but after surgery to address that new issue, his health appeared further unscathed for about 20 years. Those decades later, he experienced an extremely rare side effect to a diagnostic procedure when he developed necrotizing pancreatitis, where his pancreatic enzymes began to digest the pancreas as well as other organs. At that point, his family was told that there was nothing else that could be done, that his death was imminent. However, God rescued him, and he survived, though he was hospitalized for 8 months following and has been at death’s door multiple times since. Because of the fragility of his insides, as well as extensive adhesions causing tethering of his intestines, he is dependent on total parental nutrition (TPN) with a limited ability to eat for pleasure and socialization.
Facing such challenges, some families would have become bitter, especially since the outcome of the event(s) left each of them disabled in one way or another, yet, this has not been the case. My first friend and her husband have seen blessing after blessing from within this challenge. First, when she arrived at the hospital, she was as white as a sheet (which is usually a sign of internal bleeding, if no outward injury is obvious) and was quickly taken to surgery. But first we asked the surgeon if he would join us with nurses in a circle of prayer. A short time later, when he came out of the surgery, he said he was surprised to not find any type of internal bleeding. We simply praised God and believed, as the Great Physician, He had already healed her insides. Miracle #1.
Next, her husband’s business the year before had experienced a bumper crop, a wonderful year financially that had provided two extra months of pay for them over that 12-month period. When the collision happened, his first desire was to consistently stay by her side (except to daily return home to pick up the children from friends, eat dinner with them, get a shower and go to sleep, ready to start it all over again the next day). Because God had graciously provided the year before, for the two months she was hospitalized for her severe brain injury, her husband was able to be at her bedside without worrying about finances. Miracle #2.
Finally, since the trucking company was legally found at fault for the collision, and she was no longer able to homeschool her children, part of the settlement included that the trucking company would pay for her children’s private education until they graduated from high school. Miracle #3.
So even though multiple challenges remain from that traumatic brain injury, this family has chosen to be faithfully thankful for all that God has done despite their dire circumstances, instead of focusing on the upheaval in their lives because of the accident.
In my second friend’s life, even with her husband’s medical issues and near-death experiences, if you were to meet them in a park or in the marketplace, you probably wouldn’t even notice any problems.
They are simply a couple so in love with one another, just thankful for each day of life. They are amazing and sacrificial parents and grandparents who always put others first, as described in Philippians 2:4: “Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interest of others.” Additionally, even without a portion of his pancreas, this man has never developed the diabetes that his physician thought would result from this issue. Since I wouldn’t even know where to begin to list all of the miracles in their lives, I would encourage you to visit their website for the story. As you listen to his story, you will notice that he doesn’t question why he has suffered, but rather chooses thankfulness day by day and focuses on all he has, not what might be missing.
A few days ago, my husband and I were cleaning out the garage, and as always, he told me to watch for snakes, for we are country dwellers. I nodded that I understood, but I took no affirmative action. The next day when I arose at 6am to continue the process, again wearing my flip flops, I casually went through the boxes. When he joined me and began moving boxes around, I stepped back into the house, and our 5-year old granddaughter asked if she could go help her grandfather. I agreed.
A few minutes later, while he was working over in one corner of the garage, I heard quite a commotion. Unbeknownst to me, our little granddaughter had spotted a coiled rattlesnake and was yelling to get her grandfather’s attention, and he moved quickly and trapped the rattlesnake, while it was attempting to strike.
Moments later our precious granddaughter ran into the house to tell me how God had let her see that rattlesnake before it got a chance to kill anyone. When I heard, gratitude to God was all that filled my heart, for apparently that snake had been there the whole time and God had definitely protected all of us.
In case you think snake issues only affect rural areas, a few weeks before this event, our daughter’s family, who lives in a busy subdivision in town, also had a snake episode. In their case, it was early in the morning before the sun came up when her husband was leaving for work, and something out of the ordinary caught his eye as he shut the front door. When he turned around, there was a snake on the brick ledge beside the front door, which he promptly killed. He also was immediately grateful that his wife and three children, who would soon be leaving the house to get everyone to school, were not the ones who were surprised by the snake.
You’ve all heard the saying, “A snake in the grass,” disguised to where it is barely visible. Yes, snakes appear almost out of nowhere robbing us of our joy and peace, but unexpected circumstances can also slither up on us, showing up anytime, anywhere, and catch us off-guard. However, did you know that when prepared for the unexpected, you would actually be empowered to face not just any particular event that might occur, but also for whatever may be in your future?
So, what is your thankfulness quotient? When something out of the ordinary happens, do you immediately look for something for which to be thankful, such as thankfulness that you are still alive to choose? Or do you immediately wonder why such happened to you and move into a pity party? As someone who lived in the second category for decades, I can acknowledge that responding from a grateful heart is certainly more conducive to peace and calmness. As described in Philippians, Chapter 4, peace comes from releasing the anxiety and choosing to have thankful heart, regardless of the circumstances.
My prayer for you and your families this Thanksgiving is that you will take some time to count your blessings and thank the Lord for the love shared amongst you, your family and/or friends, not only for the necessities of life, but for the abundance of luxuries you enjoy. For though we in America have come to expect a certain amount of electronics, transportation, and perks, the Holy Scriptures reminds us what is really important: “But if we have food and clothing, we will be content.” (I Timothy 6:8, NIV) May this be your theme for the coming year!