The Art of Gratefulness

This week has been a week of reflection for me. Don’t know why – nothing in my world is causing this streak of nostalgia. My mind has just drifted to several things that I’m extremely grateful for. When you walk with Christ, gratefulness should be a normal response to life.

No, not everything that happens is a cause to jump up and down with joy. Bad things do happen in life and those bad things are not limited to evil people. Bad things happen in the lives of “good people” as well. I don’t know them at all, but my heart literally broke for the couple who lost their two year old son to an alligator attack on vacation in Orlando Florida. Bad things can happen in this imperfect world in which we live…..unimaginable things.

That’s why I am so happy for the truth of God’s Word which says:

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

This is the hope that keeps me sane.

It doesn’t say that all good things work for good… says all things – bad and good work together for good to those who love God, those who are called according to His purpose. When bad things happen, if you love God and live for His purposes, you can KNOW that whatever happens; even the unimaginable is working mysteriously through the redeeming power of God to bring about good for the sufferer.

This truth is not meant to diminish the loss – to make you forget it or to make you jump up and down with joy at its effects. It is meant to comfort the sufferer with the knowledge that God doesn’t waste the pain you go through – that Satan never truly wins a battle when engaged with God’s children. This place is not heaven and it will not be free of pain until Jesus returns and casts the evil that is poisoning it into the lake of fire. But, when you pay the ultimate price, it is not forgotten before God. The cost is laid up before Him and, in His love, He turns the pain into an opportunity to help others who truly believe that no one can relate to what they are going through.

The topic is gratefulness. Did I digress? Maybe, but the topics of redemption and gratefulness are related.

I’m grateful because I remember that life carries no entitlement within it; no matter how much I wish it to be so. Therefore, when I receive something I didn’t deserve, I am not complaining or bragging, I’m sincerely grateful to God. Entitlement breeds ungratefulness and a focus upon self.

I understand that tonight, while I am grieving my losses, there are mothers in Africa who face the death of their malnourished children. There are families who don’t have what I have and families who are going through similar circumstances as mine – and some going through much worse. I am not alone in this journey of praise and pain.

For that, I am grateful.

What can I do? Pain is a cry that often awakens compassion. I have a choice: I can curse my life or I can allow what is bad to awaken me to those falling around me. No, this does not diminish my losses but it does redeem them.

I have experienced times of great pain. But as I look back, I can also say that I serve a God who has taken that pain and used it to bring me to a higher place than I have ever been.

I’m grateful for the people He has used along the way to help me. Some went through similar circumstances as mine. Others, who hadn’t been hurt as I had where there to pick up a hurting person and nourish them back to life.

Who has helped you see that there is a pathway ahead when the darkness is so deep you cannot see it?  Be grateful for those people.

I remember one family who helped my wife and I and my kids when we where going through a difficult financial time. They paid my wife a full salary from their business for three years and she didn’t work a day for them! They even paid our way to Hawaii for a change of scenery out of sheer kindness. There are so many who have given this man a cup of cold water when things got too hot to bear. I am deeply grateful for them all.

Behind these beautiful people; through these beautiful people, I see God reaching for me – refusing to allow life to swallow me up. When I thank God for those He has used and ask Him to bless them for their kindness to me, I can’t help but fall before the Father of comfort and the God of all compassion since I know that every good and perfect gift originates in His heart.

We can rage against the evil and get into magical thinking about life’s unfairness or I can grasp the hand of God being extended to minister to me.

Bad things happen to all. Life has no prejudice when it comes to pain. Some have suffered greatly. While acknowledging the pain of our loss, we also look for the appearance of redemption. Without this hope; without this confident assurance, our pains get the better of us. I place what I have lost in trust that I will see it another day. I allow God to take the rod of affliction used to batter my life out of the hand of my enemy and place it in my hand to be used as a tool against my enemy as he tries to destroy the lives of others.

My loss is redeemed by extending it to others as a lifeline in their pain.

Lord, thank you that the unimaginable can take on purpose. I’m grateful that my hurt is not wasted. Thank You, that what I have lost I can meet again in a place where love rules and thieves can not break in and steal.

Thank You.

I’m not entitled but I am blessed.


2 thoughts on “The Art of Gratefulness

  1. It took me a long time to understand this concept. Part of what had to happen is I had to quit looking at my own belly button and start changing my world view. For all those who suffer, it is only temporary. And for those who have what seems to be a pain free life, there is invisible suffering that we may not see. Thank you for reminding us that suffering is not for nothing. It has value. (Not that we want to suffer on purpose.)
    My prayer is that Father God will draw those who suffer closer to Him for comfort and reassurance.
    Thank you for writing this blog, Pastor Parkey.

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