One of my great family Thanksgiving traditions after moving to Huntsville was going to the Johnson’s log house in the country with all my brothers and sisters from church who were unable (or unwilling) to get with their physical families for Thanksgiving.
The Johnson’s would always gather us together in a large circle, holding hands, like the Who’s in Whoville, to share what we were grateful for this year before our prayer for the meal. The expressions of gratitude were usually around themes such as my family, a job, health, salvation, my mommy and daddy, and the church with someone usually expressing something about a warm meal that was getting cold if we don’t hurry and pray.
But there always seemed to be something missing, something deeper and more profound that was always left unexpressed.
It was not until after going through my greatest personal tragedy – a divorce and the loss of my most precious dream of an intact family – that I started to get a deeper understanding of thankfulness. Due to my role as a full-time minister, I also added the uncertainty of my career path and insecurity of financial stability to provide for my children in college and high school. But it was through this valley that I discovered one of God’s greatest gifts, His presence in time of suffering, uncertainty, and loss.
Suffering thrusts us into a level of spiritual growth like warp speed sent the U.S.S. Enterprise into new, unexplored galaxies. And for this we should be eternally grateful. It’s only through the tunnel of suffering that we can mature into the character of God which is His greatest desire.
This being the case, what about being thankful to God for our diseases, unemployment, break up of a relationship, or loss of a parent?
As I went from house to house in Union Beach, New Jersey after the devastation from “Frankenstorm” Sandy, I entered into person after person’s unique story of pain, suffering, and loss. I couldn’t help but pray, that they would allow God to carry them through this tragedy into the gift of significance, compassion, and grace. Because it can be through the window of this tragedy that the realization of what really matters can come.
I prayed, to myself, that the loss they had suffered would loosen their grip on this world, so that they could grasp more tightly to the gift of God Himself.
Every loss we suffer gives us an opportunity to trust Him more, clinging to Him more tightly, and hoping in Him more fully, so that we may learn to live a little more by faith and not sight.
So let us be grateful for our sufferings that they may lighten our hold on this world that we may grasp more tightly to Him.