What I Wish I Were Thankful For

Amy_Carmichael_with_children2I wish I were thankful for trials. I know James says we are to count them as joy. I know that trials produce endurance and end up shaping us into the likeness of Jesus Christ. And I’m thankful for the trials I’ve gone through that are over, not just because I survived them, but because I see God working in my life because of them.

But I’m not a fan of trials. I don’t eagerly long for or look forward to the next one or the one after that. I’d much rather hear good news and have things go my way.

I’d rather see the US experience a great revival. I’d rather see the health of the people I love improve. I’d rather get a big book contract. I’d rather my church had a perfect staff and perfect congregants and did ministry perfectly.

It would be so much easier to be thankful, wouldn’t it?

But the reality is, I’m not perfect, the US may not see a revival, my family and friends will struggle with health issues and one day die, my church doesn’t have perfect people at any position, and I may never see that big contract.

So what?

Is God greater if everything goes the way I want it to or is He the same, whether I suffer or not?

This is a critical question, because thanksgiving can’t depend on what we have. If I have plenty, I’m thankful and if I have less, I’m not? If that were true, what would be the line of demarcation indicating when we needed to be thankful and when we could start complaining?

So if thanksgiving isn’t about “counting our blessings, naming them one by one,” what is it?

I suggest it is above all a focus on who God is.

Recently I heard a poem entitled “Flame Of God” written by Amy Carmichael, a missionary to India who opened, then ran an orphanage for fifty-five years. The poem is such a rich, reverent piece, I think it gains strength by repetition. The point for this post is that Amy Carmichael clearly saw God in a way that made her want to give Him her all.

She wouldn’t have created a thanksgiving list that included stuff that made life easy or comfortable. She’d thank God for Himself, His word, prayer, His redemption. But she’s mostly thank Him for the privilege of serving Him, for the opportunity to give her life to care for the least and lost.

When asked once what missionary life was like, she wrote back saying simply, “Missionary life is simply a chance to die.” (Wikipedia)

The words of “Flame Of God” inspire me and convict me at the same time. Above all, they make me want to see God the way Amy Carmichael did.

Flame Of God

From prayer that asks that I may be
Sheltered from winds that beat on Thee,
From fearing when I should aspire,
From faltering when I should climb higher
From silken self, O Captain, free
Thy soldier who would follow Thee.

From subtle love of softening things,
From easy choices, weakenings,
(Not thus are spirits fortified,
Not this way went the Crucified)
From all that dims Thy Calvary
O Lamb of God, deliver me.

Give me the love that leads the way,
The faith that nothing can dismay
The hope no disappointments tire,
The passion that will burn like fire;
Let me not sink to be a clod;
Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God

Suffering is a part of life. I don’t think it’s wrong for the sick to pray for healing or the unemployed, for a job. I think it’s good to pray for God’s comfort in the face of grief. But should I pray for “softening things” or for “easy choices”? I think too often that’s what I do.

What I want to do instead is learn to use suffering for an occasion to thank God—for His presence, His strength, and whatever else He shows me. I’m most often mindful of His omniscience—that the things which surprise me, are no surprise to Him. That He knew all along what would happen and what I’d need. And of course that reminds me how trustworthy He is.

I don’t know that I’ll ever have the spiritual maturity Amy Carmichael displayed when she wrote “Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God.” But I’m convinced thanking God, no matter where He puts me or what He takes me through, draws me into a deeper relationship with Him.

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Published in: on November 12, 2015 at 6:34 pm  Comments (4)  
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4 Comments

  1. Becky, He will get you there – and me there also. It’s His work – I know you know this.

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  2. Just lovely, Becky. God is good, all of the time, and we really can learn to be content in our circumstances. Joyous even in the midst of trials.

    This has been on my mind a lot:
    “It would be so much easier to be thankful, wouldn’t it?”

    Surprisingly, no! Often we as people are not grateful until we loose the things we care about, until we don’t get what we want. We like to take the good things for granted and assume they will always be there. I met man not long ago who lost a fortune. He used to be very wealthy, but he said he never knew the value of being well off, never felt grateful for it, until he lost it all. That’s kind of sad, but I think it speaks well to human nature. The good news is that when we’re in Christ, He teaches us that before hand, He arms us against that kind of regret, and He shows us how to have joy even in the middle of troubles. Gratitude really is path the to happiness.

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  3. Great post, Becky. God has been dealing with me in this same area lately. It is quite challenging when we have so much in our lives. Keep up the good work.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Tomorrow, I’m doing a show on chronic illness and this is just perfect. I”m going to reference this on the show tomorrow. And when you mentioned the book contract, wouldn’t you know I had a dream that was so life-like that I had gotten a major book contract from a major publisher. It felt so real because my family was there and everything felt as if ti happened.

    Looking back on the dream though, there were inconsistencies, such as when I was on the phone with the publisher, I was lying down. When I told my family, I was lying down. And when I went to hug my best friend, my arms didn’t really…but we ignore those details. They’re gnats, I tell you! Swat them away!

    But getting back on topic, you’re so on point as always. Thank you!

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