It’s been a tough year!
And Thanksgiving is coming, the time of the year we look at our blessings of the past year and give thanks to God. We thank Him for health, family, and friends. We thank Him for Creation, our salvation, and our financial stability. But can we thank Him when the year has been filled with numerous tough moments?
Sometimes the boulders labeled “hard times” hide the golden nuggets marked “blessings.” The blessings are still there. We just have to look for them.
If I were looking for thankful nuggets that marked how my life has followed the way I wanted it to, I’d walk past the holiday with disappointment, regret and a tad of resentment.
What made it a tough year?
- Preacher Creature had major back surgery in May. It took every bit of the expected six months for him to recover and it was a hard recovery. I’m still picking dropped items off the floor for him because he has difficulty bending and being on high alert for pain-filled overdo’er moments.
- Four weeks before his surgery, a close friend died tragically. His wife, whom I include in my top ten list of personal friends, moved away to live with her children due to serious health issues. I miss her terribly.
- The small church we serve got hammered with other health and family issues, taking out key leaders and requiring several of us to double duty in our volunteer work.
- Because of the extra caregiving and church responsibilities, I haven’t attended to my writing and speaking as I wished. Many times, I felt like I slogged through the teaching of my ladies’ Bible study because I didn’t have the energy to do the job I expected of myself.
My tough moments makes me think of the first year the Pilgrims spent in America.
Out of 102 passengers on the Mayflower, only 52 Pilgrims survived the first year in Plymouth. Scurvy, pneumonia, and poor diet caused by the long sea voyage weakened many colonists who then had to huddle on the Mayflower until suitable housing was built. As many as two to three people died per day, I learned from the Plimouth Plantation website.
It would be enough to make one never consider a celebration of Thanksgiving.
Am I canceling Thanksgiving? Did they? Are you kidding?
Despite the Pilgrims’ trouble, God provided immensely for them. The place they settled was an abandoned Indian village where the residents had been wiped out by a plague. One source I read said that the Pilgrims found corn buried in the sand along the coastline. Squanto, an Indian who had spent several years in slavery only to come back to his abandoned village, had learned English during his time in England and served as translator between the Pilgrims and the Indians, This paved the way for the settlers to establish peaceful relations with the nearby Indian tribe.
Come on, what are the chances of the Pilgrims meeting up with an Indian who spoke English?
It took six hard years for the Plymouth Colony to establish itself but, by 1627, about 160 people were living comfortable and stable lives.
You know, it’s easy to focus on the one-time event we find so unpleasant. We look at the Pilgrims’ first hard winter or my hard Spring of 2019, and say, “Oh my. Life is so hard. How can I possibly be thankful?”
The long haul gives us a bigger picture.
We see the small moments of joy running like ribbons of gold in the hard rock of difficulty and remember how God gave us a hand to scale the boulders. We note the ways we saw God working in the moment, pausing to appreciate the smooth parts of the path that gave us rest from the hard climb. And we stand in wonder at the results and outcomes of our overcoming by the help of our Guide who never left us.
- Today, Preacher Creature is in less pain than he’s been in for twenty years. We went to a recent conference where we walked miles each day. In that time, he took very little pain medication. I am so grateful.
- My friend is recovering from what we feared was a life-threatening condition. Come spring, she’ll be back in our midst, if the Lord wills. I’m so grateful for God’s deliverance and I love to watch what God is doing with this tough time in her life and the people He has brought closer to His side because of her journey past even bigger boulders.
- New volunteers have stepped forward to fill the gap in our small church. We’re closer to each other. We speak more deeply of spiritual matters. We’re depending on God a lot more. Our children’s program is stronger and bigger than ever. This weekend, we’ll see our first baptism from the group of young people who began to attend 1 ½ years ago. We’ve got too few helpers and too many kids but I’d much rather have it that way than too many helpers and too few kids. I am so grateful.
Preacher Creature and I have seen God walk with us in so many ways. Provide for us financially. Provide for us relationally. We’re stronger, standing firm and moving forward. I am so grateful.
When I focus on the goodness of the last year, my thankful list overflows, covering those boulders with layers of God’s golden grace.
Most of all, I’m thankful for hope.
The leader of the Plymouth Colony said it well:
“The dangers were great, but not desperate; the difficulties were many, but not invincible,” – William Bradford.https://www.plimoth.org/learn/just-kids/homework-help/who-were-pilgrims
Yes, Mr. Bradford, the dangers and difficulties are great and many, but they haven’t crushed us. That’s because we have a God who is bigger than all that comes against us. He liters our path with His goodness. And He promises us His peace at the end of the journey. We can be thankful because we cling to the hope that we will overcome and the tough times will pass.
God’s light still shines in our tough moments and He gives us so much. Even in the most trying of years, I still have so much for which I can be thankful.
What’s on your thankful list this year? What blessings compete for equal billing with your tough moments?