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Grapple With Gratitude

The insufferable heat of Texas summer has finally abated. Hope is in the air, whistling through the trees with the promise of a new season. Though I’m a native Texan, I’ve grown weary of the miserable summers. Every year they seem hotter and longer. There are days when I’m not sure I can survive another year. My family mocks me as my pattern remains constant—from June to September I look for houses in other parts of the country, calculating a way to move to a cooler climate to leave the heat permanently. Then comes the first 80 degree day and 60 degree night and I can breathe again; the restlessness begins to calm as subtle glimpses of fall appear.

But maybe your least favorite time of year is winter and the cold sends you indoors for months of hibernation. Re- gardless of which camp we’re in, we know at some point the season will change. But what if it didn’t? What if extreme temperatures never waned? What if our harshest seasons and hardest challenges never seemed to end? I know a family who recently buried their teenager who was taken suddenly in a tragic accident. Another friend lost her dear sister to a long battle with cancer and left three young children behind. At least two in my sphere have become widows in the last two years, losing their husbands decades before they should have. One woman lost her sight to diabe- tes only to have her life cut short in herfifties. A sweet lady I know suffers yearafter year with cancer, hoping the next surgery or treatment will be the last. Couples struggle with infertility, others mourn the death of an infant. All of these individuals have put their faith in Christ and wonder, why the suffering?

What do we do in the darkest of times, when our faith is weakened and the struggle never seems to end? How do we press on when the life we thought we’d have doesn’t manifest and tragedy we never expected becomes a reality? The Bible tells us to give thanks in all things. His Word says, “Don’t be pulled in different directions or worried about a thing. Be saturated in prayer throughout eachday, offering our faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude”(Phil. 4:6, TPT).

When all hope seems lost and every ounce of joy has been drained from your present life, keep seeking Him. If you’ve nothing to be thankful for in this life, puta laser-like focus on Jesus—the sacrifice He became for your redemption and the great promise of eternal life. I’ve en- dured loss in my life. I’ve felt pain and disappointment—not to the degree that some have, but I have suffered. I’ve been battling a visual disability caused by a constant (24/7) migraine aura for over nine years. There are days—many days—I do not want to leave my bed. I’d rather keep my eyes closed and imagine I seewith clarity. On the most difficult dayswhen the anger rises and my cry for healing goes unanswered, I grapple with gratitude. Taking thankfulness to task, I wrestle and slowly begin to count my blessings. I’m not blind and I enjoy what I see even though it’s somewhat dis- torted. I have a beautiful, healthy family. There’s a nice roof over my head and plenty to eat and wear, and I have Jesus and the freedom to worship Him. And these are just the basics—gifts abound all around me.

Many of you don’t have the blessings I have; some of you have much more.Wherever you find yourself today, youhave something, at least one thing, for which you can give thanks. Fight for it. If this Thanksgiving is clouded by tragedy, by disappointment, by health issues or something else, look beyond the present and imagine eternity. See His face; see the place He has prepared for you; cling tight to His promises and know that one day there will be no more tears. One day, you will embrace that loved one again; you will hold that infant; you will be completely healed absent of all pain and suffering.

This life may not be what you hoped. The next life will be more than you imagine. As Thanksgiving comes and goes another year, wrestle with your flesh, grapple with gratitude. Squeeze out thankfulness; it will do you and those around you a world of good. Like Ann Voskamp reminds us in One Thousand Gifts Devotional, “There is so much joy in seeing how He uses our simple act of noticing the blessings He bestows all around us to transform our lives and the lives of those we touch.”

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