"Who would ever know the greater graces of comfort and perseverance, mercy and forgiveness, patience and courage, if no shadows fell over a life?" - Ann Voskamp
I'm reading a book right now called "One Thousand Gifts" by Ann Voskamp. Ultimately, it's about how thanksgiving can transform a life. She talks about how awakening to joy and thanksgiving means awakening to pain. I know...can we just awaken to joy and fullness of life and skip the pain part, please??
But, aren't we only truly able to enter into a place of deep, authentic gratefulness and joy when we have tasted of pain? Isn't it our experiences in dark places that compel us to throw open wide our arms and lift our face to the sky and soak up the light? Isn't it our journeying through the deserts of life that cause us to fall by the pool of water and lap it up, drinking deeply? If my life was always smooth and easy, would I truly have the ability to appreciate it?
I am so quick to give thanks when life is good, when I am comfortable, when I FEEL blessed. But what of those times when I am feeling my way in the darkness with no light seemingly in sight? What then? Am I just as quick to utter thankfulness in the midst of that circumstance? No, I'm not. In fact, during times of struggle words of thanks are hard pressed to make their way through my pursed lips.
Has God changed? Do my difficulties and struggles mean that God has changed? Is He not ALWAYS good? Do I not ALWAYS have a reason to give thanks? Not just to utter the words aloud, but to have the attitude of my heart be joy and thanksgiving? Doesn't scripture say that "in EVERYTHING I am to give thanks"?
"Lord, that I day after day after day greedily take what looks like it's good from Your hand - a child gloating over sweet candy..." I've been a thief, trying to hoard away all the good. "...but that I'd thrash wild to escape when what You give from Your hand feels bad - like gravel in the mouth. Oh Father, forgive...Should I accept good from you, and not trouble?"I am the greedy too. I am the eager one that reaches out to take all the good I can get when it appears. But what of the dark? Rarely am I ever thankful FOR the dark. But, can I not reach out in that darkness and be thankful in the midst of it?
"I awaken to the strange truth that all new life comes out of the dark places, and hasn't it always been? Out of darkness, God spoke forth the teeming life. All new life labors out of the very bowels of darkness. That fullest life itself dawns from nothing but Calvary darkness and tomb - cave black into the radiance of Easter morning. Out of the darkness of the cross, the world transfigures into new life...and emptiness itself can birth the fullness of grace because in the emptiness we have the opportunity to turn to God, the only begetter of grace, and there find all the fullness of joy. Darkness transfigures into light, bad transfigures into good, grief transfigures into grace, empty transfigures into full. God wastes nothing."He wastes nothing. And so even in the midst of pain and suffering I can give thanks and find joy because that pain and suffering will not be wasted.
I think back to Africa. To the mother walking barefoot on the hot ground, sweating baby strapped to her back, heavy bundle of provisions on her head, alone because death had come knocking at her doorstep for her husband. And she smiles so big, all her beautiful white teeth showing, her eyes glowing. And it must be that her suffering and her pain are the very things that make her grateful for the bundle of love radiating heat on her back, for the weight of the food on her head and for the hot ground beneath her feet.
Oh Jesus. May the dark places on my journey not keep me from thankfulness. May I open up my hand for whatever You have for me to receive - WHATEVER. May my response to You at all times be heartfelt praise.