When It’s Hard To Be Thankful

 

It isn’t always easy to be thankful, is it? When physical or emotional pain and/or losses overwhelm us, it can be hard to see through our tears or focus our minds on blessings right in front of us. 

Hagar was an alien and a slave. When her mistress found herself barren, she was given to Abraham to bear a child for her. But dissension escalated, especially after Sarah birthed a child herself. Sarah no longer wanted Hagar’s son around her son Isaac.

Hagar and Ishmael were rejected and sent away to wander in the hot and dry desert with only some water in a skin and some food to sustain them. But the water emptied…

She couldn’t bear to see her son suffer and die of thirst, so she put him under one of the bushes and distanced herself.

Dehydrated and devastated of hope, she sat down and sobbed. Did no one hear her and her son? Did no one care?

“What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there.” Hope heralded in by an Angel of God.

Someone did care. She wasn’t alone. God heard Ishmael’s cries. He heard Hagar’s cries. He hears the cries of the needy.

“For He will deliver the needy who cry out,
the afflicted who have no one to help.”
Psalm 72:12

God lifted her drooping head and opened her tear-swollen eyes to see it. A well. Right in front of her.

Hagar got up, filled her water skin, and gave her son a drink.

We, too, may sometimes feel empty and hopeless. Spiritually parched. Physically exhausted. Blinded by the tears of our grief over the losses and struggles in our lives. How can we ever be thankful?

If we look into our discouraged hearts or at our bleak circumstances (or that of others), we will surely despair of hope. We won’t see the well of blessings God has placed in front of us. We won’t see that God really is good and is full of love and compassion towards us. We won’t see that He actually is for us, not against us.

God longs to be gracious to us. He tenderly lifts our weary hearts to see His bottomless well of love. He invites us to drink, long and freely.

“Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
therefore He will rise up to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for Him!”
Isaiah 30:18

Jesus’ love and compassion will never empty. They will always be more than enough for us. No matter what. He heard Hagar’s and Ishmael’s cries, and He will hear our cries. He didn’t forget them, and He won’t forget us.

Precious Lord, You know the heart of every person. You know the heavy burdens weighing us down. Please lift us and carry us through this Thanksgiving season and always. Open the eyes of our hearts to Your never-emptying well of love and empower us to drink from it. Send fullness in spite of empty places we feel and strength and peace amid the struggles of this life. Please help us to truly believe You are good, You are love, and You are for us. Thank You for Your patience with us and for never condemning us. Help us to express our gratitude to You by releasing our burdens into Your hands and trusting Your plan for us. Open our eyes, too, to see all that we still have and still are able to do. Thank You so much for Your unconditional love, Your endless patience with us, and Your ever-flowing and over-flowing grace!

“Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”
by Chris Tomlin

The Good Shepherd Cares About His Sheep

“The Lord Is My Good Shepherd”
Bernhard Plockhorst – 1825 -1907 (Public Domain)

Darkness crept in like a thief. Too late. Now they didn’t know how to get home. A staccato of fear pounded in their hearts as they huddled together. Exposed. To whatever and whoever may want to harm them.

Many years ago when we still had children at home, we raised sheep, and one night they didn’t return to our lighted yard before darkness fell. They never stayed out in the darkness, so I walked out to the front fence line of our pasture. There they were huddled together like one dark blot about halfway back in the pasture, desperately bleating, “Baaaaahhhh!”

“Here sheep! Here sheep! Here sheep!” I called. They calmed down and began to move in my direction. When I stopped calling, they stopped, so I kept calling until they found the lighted pathway back to home.

Isn’t that how life can go sometimes? We can be contentedly munching on the blessings. We don’t see the lengthening shadows of what lies ahead. And unexpectedly, losses of one kind or another blindside us and plunge us into darkness. We panic and flail because we can’t seem to find our way to the light. Fear abounds and we don’t feel safe anymore. We try to pull up the storehouse of God’s Promises we hold in our hearts, but we can’t focus. The darkness deprives us of discernment, despondency deadens us, and dread debilitates us. Which way is home?

The sheep cried, and we, too, can cry. Their protector heard them, and our Protector will always hear us. He hears the weakest cry and can see through the thickest darkness.

When the sheep heard my voice, they recognized me as one who cared. They couldn’t see me, but they trusted I would lead them to safety. Do we know Jesus’ voice? Do we realize how much He cares? So much that He even gave up His life for us? Do we trust Him to guide us home?

“My sheep listen to My voice;
I know them,
and they follow Me.”

John 10:27
“I am the Good Shepherd, and I know [without any doubt
those who are] My own and My own know Me
[and have a deep, personal relationship with Me]—”
John 10:14 AMP

The sheep got confused when they couldn’t hear my voice above their noise, so they sometimes had to be quiet. Likewise, when we’re crying out of the pain of darkness, we may sometimes have to be still and listen, to tune in our ears to our Master’s voice. Do you hear it now? Jesus stretches forth His scarred hands and pleads, “Come, come, come… Come, My sheep. Come unto Me, all you who are weary. I will give you rest. Come to Me, you who are in darkness. I will give you light. In Me is safety. I am your HOME.”

“Come to Me,
all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest.”
Matthew 11:28
Jesus spoke to the people once more and said,
“I am the light of the world. If you follow Me,
you won’t have to walk in darkness,
because you will have the light that leads to life.”
John 8:12

Do you feel the most at home at Jesus’ feet? When darkness overtakes you, do you cry out? The Good Shepherd hears your every bleat of pain. Can you hear Him calling you? Do you hear the love and longing in His voice? Follow His voice. He can lead you back to the light. He can lead you back home.

I kept asking God what I should write for this week’s post, and I kept feeling the nudge to repost this post from three years ago. I don’t know why, but I’ll leave that to Him. I pray He will wrap you in His Shepherd’s arms of love and tender care!

Thank You, Good Shepherd,
for Your tender love and care!
Please help us to hear Your voice
and lead us to Your light!

“Shepherd of My Soul”

Butterflies of Hope: I Am With You Always, My Child

As I walked a nature trail towards the beginning of summer, memory triggers swept through my heart and left me desolate, alone, and afraid. Help me, God! I’m sinking fast!

Lift your eyes and look around you, My child.

I tried so hard to see His love and care in His creation around me, but still those memories of past pain and betrayal kept sucking the life out of my soul.

I sat down on a bench, tears ready to gush forth, my soul pleading for strength and comfort. My eyes lifted and my heart gasped with wonder. A butterfly flew in front of me along with God’s whisper – I am with you always, My child. Then another one flew by as if to confirm God’s promise.

As I walked back to my van, my heart was still heavy with grief from the past, but a hope arose in my soul that God would again get me through this tough spot.

God graciously continued to send me reminders throughout the summer. When my heart was despondent as I drove home from the doctor, one flew a couple of feet in front of the windshield. As I reclined in my chair, feeling sick and drained of energy, one fluttered past the window. And many other times, as one flew by, I had to smile as a calmness seeped into my soul.

One day I told some of my grandkids how when I see a butterfly it’s like God is whispering to me – I am with you always, My child.

“Boy, Grandma, He must have really been yelling it then when we went to the butterfly house!” Lexi said.

One of my counted blessings this summer was when one of my granddaughters, Lexi, asked me to go to the butterfly house with her. 🙂

Some butterflies had broken wings. God helps the broken to fly! 🙂

Butterflies convey God’s message of hope to me, and I’m awed how often He sent them to me this summer. But I’m trying to remember His promise isn’t any less true when the butterflies don’t come.

“And be sure of this:
I am with you always,
even to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:20b

The promise of God being with us doesn’t come and go like a butterfly. He has promised He will be with us, and He will be, whether or not we can feel it.

Yes, it can be so hard to grasp and hold onto the promise of God’s faithfulness with our weak and shaky hands. But it’s a comfort that even when we can’t hold on, He won’t let us go. He will hold us up with His victorious right hand!

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you.
I will hold you up with My victorious right hand.”
Isaiah 41:10 NLT

“Faithful”
by Sarah Reeves

“Even when I cannot see, You are moving
Even when I cannot hear, You are singing over me
Even when I can’t hold on, You won’t let me go
You are faithful, You are faithful

Hallelujah
My soul will sing
Hallelujah
You are good to me
You are faithful, always faithful…”