I sit here propped up on my bed on this warm, lazy summer Sunday afternoon. The central air conditioning in our new to us house keeps the indoor temperature just right, while the early evening sun comes through the window. It sounds more idyllic than it is in reality, for life is never perfect and always has its challenges and difficulties, its hurts and sorrows.
I heard someone say recently that if we preach a gospel that includes suffering or sickness, then we are preaching the "other gospel" that Paul warned against in Galatians chapter one. Something about this didn't settle quite right in my spirit, but as has become my habit, I asked God to show me His truth from His Word. Shortly after, I was reading about the conversion of the Apostle Paul in the book of Acts. If you recall, Paul, formerly known as Saul, was a devout Jew and very zealous in persecuting the followers of Christ, to the point of participating in the death of the first martyr, Stephen. But God had other plans for Saul. On the road to Damascus, God revealed Himself to Saul in an undeniable way. Then God called a man named Ananias to go to Saul, in spite of Anania's fear to face this former enemy. This is what God said. "But the Lord said to him, 'Go, for this man is a chosen instrument of Mine to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the descendants of Israel;For I will make clear to him how much he will be afflicted must endure suffer for My name’s sake'."
Like I said, life is not always idyllic. Sometimes we suffer for the cause of Christ. Sometimes we suffer due to the consequences of our own poor decisions. Sometimes we suffer simply because we live in this sin-sick world. Sometimes we are weary or hurting or sick. Can we ask God for help and healing? Absolutely! Our good Father God is always quick to hear the cries of His children and is well able to heal and help and deliver us. However, sometimes He answers us by enabling and strengthening us to go through the hard things. Not because He enjoys watching us struggle, but because He who began a good work in us knows the best way to perfect and complete that work. His grace abounds to us when He heals us instantly, when He delivers us from a trial miraculously but also when we walk through the valley of weeping and eventually come through to the other side.
It will soon be eight years since I began my gratitude journal. In those years I have experienced miracles and answers to prayer and great and mighty things beyond what I could have ever dreamed. I have also experienced deep trial and heartache and pain and testing, at times wondering if I was going to make it through. But, this I know with deep assurance, His eyes are always on me, His ears are always tuned to my cries, His grace abounds to me and His grace will continue to abound to me all the days of my life.
Since 2009 I've been counting my blessings thanks to the prompting of Ann Voskamp.
I continue to count my thanks
piling up gratitude day by day
in my journal.
(and capturing some of my blessings via my camera or iPhone)
-the first day of summer!
-sitting in the kitchen and visiting with my hub's siblings before they head home
-taking a little walk with my youngest grandson, stopping to pick some daisies
-a yellow butterfly on a purple blossom
-God with us through all things
-picking blueberries with my daughter and youngest granddaughters
-a friend's gracious love
-fresh caught rainbow trout for dinner
-an evening walk with my husband
-a sweet time of prayer and the Word
-funny texts from my oldest granddaughter
-an answer to prayer
-so much rain today-I don't have to water the plants or lawn!
-a new plant for inside
-my husband's mentor encouraging him
-an early dinner with my husband
-our oldest granddaughter coming over
-Friday date day
-funny texts from our girl
-making homemade marshmallows for the first time
-God speaking to me from my reading in the book of Acts
-jumping rope with my granddaughter
-a fire in our firepit and s'mores shared with friends
-our friends being at church after being away in Texas for several weeks
-my husband preached a great message today
-meeting our oldest daughter and her family for lunch
-this beautiful day
-a little Sunday afternoon nap