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

Winter: In Nature and In Our Souls

A winter blizzard walloped us with 13+ inches of snow on the 14th. This was in addition to 12+ inches we already received this month. Then on the 18th, another 6+ inches. Will spring ever come?

I admit I’m as winter weary as this donkey…


I try to focus on the beauty in it though. Such unique patterns, both in the snow and in frost on the windows. No one but our powerful God can do that!

I’m also awed by the untrodden pureness of the snow, and sometimes it stirs up a longing desire:

“Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.”
Psalm 51:7

In the freezing temperatures of this prolonged winter, God reminded me of His tender care over the birds. It’s amazing how He has equipped them. They fluff their feathers to trap heat. This slows their metabolism so they can conserve energy necessary to survive.

And just think, God counts us even more valuable than them! (Matthew 10:29-31)

On the morning after the blizzard, I was looking out our office window at all the snow. My heart sighed. Then a house finch flew in and perched on our dwarf globe evergreen. Even though he couldn’t see me through our tinted windows, it seemed he looked directly at me like he was saying, “Don’t lose heart. Spring will come.” Thank You, God, for the hope You breathed into my weary soul!

His mate perched on the nest box like she wasn’t ready to give up either. They had started building a nest in it, but it filled up with snow. That snow has melted, so hopefully they will build again.

As in the winter in nature, so also God has a purpose in the winters we experience in our spiritual lives. When one of life’s storms rips away someone or something we treasure and devastates our hearts and lives, we may feel forsaken by God.

When C.S. Lewis lost his wife, he slipped into depression. He wondered where God was in his suffering and grief. In one of his publications, A Grief Observed, he described what it was like. “But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is in vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside.”

That can be what it feels like, can’t it? But God taught him a valuable lesson because of this winter of the soul. “My idea of God is a not divine idea. It has to be shattered from time to time. He shatters it Himself. He is the great iconoclast. Could we not almost say that this shattering is one of the marks of His presence?”

We so easily trust in our own strength, and our perceptions about God can be far less than who He really is. When He does His work in us to bring us to the right place, it truly is a mark of His loving presence, even if we can’t “feel” it.

The winters of the soul strengthen our relationship with God. In nature, trees are dormant. They appear dead, but below the frozen ground, their roots are stretching and strengthening, actually fortifying the well-being of the tree. In the same way, we need to be rooted more firmly in Jesus. Our souls may feel dead and barren, but God is growing our roots stronger.

I have to admit after I wrote this, I feel better about winter. 🙂 But I still long for spring and all its new life! It’s coming!

“For just as rain and snow fall from heaven
and do not return there
without saturating the earth
and making it germinate and sprout,
and providing seed to sow
and food to eat,
so My word that comes from My mouth
will not return to Me empty,
but it will accomplish what I please
and will prosper in what I send it to do.

Isaiah 55:10-11
If I go east, He is not there,
and if I go west, I cannot perceive Him.
When He is at work to the north, I cannot see Him;
when He turns south, I cannot find Him.
Yet He knows the way I have taken;
when He has tested me, I will emerge as pure gold.

Job 23:8-10
“And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord,
you must continue to follow him.
Let your roots grow down into him,
and let your lives be built on him.
Then your faith will grow strong
in the truth you were taught,
and you will overflow with thankfulness.”
Colossians 2:6-7

“Seasons”
by Hillsong Worship

“Like the frost on a rose
Winter comes for us all
Oh how nature acquaints us
With the nature of patience
Like a seed in the snow
I’ve been buried to grow
For Your promise is loyal
From seed to sequoia…”

 

The Shepherd Calls His Sheep Because He Cares

good shepherd

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.

“Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling”
Sung by Alan Jackson

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

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Linking up with: 

Holley – Coffee For Your Heart 

Jennifer – Tell His Story 

Kelly – Cheerleaders of Faith