Thursday, November 25, 2010

Give Thanks with a Grateful (and not-so-grateful) Heart!

According to Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, there are 5 stages of grief (not necessarily in any particular order):
1.       Shock: The sudden impact of the initial collision with the “bad news”
2.       Denial: Willing yourself to NOT believe it’s happened
3.       Anger: Outpouring of belligerence at the wrong that has been done
4.       Bargaining: Making deals to erase the circumstance
5.       Acceptance: Realizing the reality of it
Last weekend, a dear friend of mine suffered a devastating loss when her house was destroyed by fire.  They are such a family of faith and have had a couple of blows to the gut this year.  Watching them give thanks to God for protecting their family in the midst of such a tragedy not only humbled me, it also made me realize that I have been living in the “acceptance” stage for some time now.
It’s so easy to give thanks for the good things in our life. Can you imagine the Norman Rockwell family gathered for Thanksgiving dinner, taking turns giving thanks for the tragedies they had experienced? Maybe.  If the outcomes were positive or the way we had hoped they would turn out. 
Have you ever thanked God in the beginning or middle of a tragedy?  I remember being in the “anger” stage after my husband left.  God was supposed to be bigger than the sin that turned my husband from his family.  So, why wasn’t He asserting his “GOD POWERS” and changing my husband’s heart?  Wasn’t I praying hard enough?  (transition to bargaining) If You would just turn his heart back to his family, I promise I will (insert Proverbs 31 woman here).  What would have happened if God answered that prayer the way I wanted Him to?  I would have given thanks and praise!  Instead, God answered my prayer according to His will.  There was no thanks and praise given.  I remember the night I finally “accepted” the fact my marriage was over.  Burrowed in my empty bed, I wept to my Creator, “I can’t feel you.  I can’t hear you.  I can’t see you in any of this.  But I know in my soul that you are real and that your Word is true.  It’s all I have and it’s what I will stand on.”
Looking back, I can see God’s grace and love.  Just like all the other tragedies in my life, He never left my side.  The abandonment I felt from my husband was so profound that it felt I had been abandoned by everyone including the One my heart loved the most.  Why is it so hard to trust Him during times like these when He proves Himself time and time again? His will is always going to be best.  There have been several times since the divorce that I have looked at my ex and said, “Thank you, Lord!”  (it’s okay to laugh)
Was divorce God’s will?  Of course not.  Divorce was the result of sin.  Then why?  We all have our own “why’s”.  Why did my child die?  Why did I lose my job? Why do I have cancer? Why can’t I have a baby? Why am I still single?  God WILL answer your questions.  Unfortunately we are such selfish creatures who turn our backs on God when He doesn’t answer the way we want Him to or when we think He isn’t answering us at all.  Sometimes His answer is that we aren’t meant to know. 
How different would we react to situations if we humble ourselves and realize that our finite minds can’t possibly fathom God’s infinite wonder?
Today is Thanksgiving Holiday here in America.  I challenge ALL of us, no matter what part of the world you are reading this from, to give thanks in the “not so grateful” times.  I am so beyond thankful that God has a plan for my life.  After the tragedies that I have experienced in my life, I finally understand!   
1.            Shock: When a circumstance hits me right between the eyes with a metal bat, I know my first reaction is to pray!  Throw on my armor and hunker down.
2.            Denial: Deny the enemy any opportunity to put doubt in my head about Who God IS and where God is as I fight this fight.
3.            Anger: Be angry and sin not. 
4.            Bargaining: Realize that God’s plan is way better than anything my flesh would to want to negotiate… then revert back to the denial strategy.
5.            Acceptance:  Make this the FIRST reaction.  When I live my life surrendered to the Lord, I can more easily accept that, no matter what, He has a perfect plan for my life.

This is not an easy feat.  We are mere mortals, after all.  The good news is that we serve an IMORTAL God Who Was, and Is, and Is to come.  He meets us where we are!  He understands how we feel when we are abandoned or rejected.  He feels that from the very ones he created!  He knows what it feels like to lose a child.  He lost His in the most horrific way.  He knows what it’s like to have to turn away from a loved one.  He had to turn His face from LOVE itself as our sins were nailed to Love’s beaten body.  The best part is that He also knows victory! NEVER defeat. He wants us to know that victory!
So, let’s give thanks knowing that, no matter where we are in our circumstance, we have victory! 
 I will extol the LORD at all times;
   his praise will always be on my lips.
 I will glory in the LORD;
   let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
 Glorify the LORD with me;
   let us exalt his name together.
 I sought the LORD, and he answered me;
   he delivered me from all my fears.
 Those who look to him are radiant;
   their faces are never covered with shame.
 This poor man called, and the LORD heard him;
   he saved him out of all his troubles.
 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him,
   and he delivers them.
 Taste and see that the LORD is good;
   blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
 Fear the LORD, you his holy people,
   for those who fear him lack nothing.
 The lions may grow weak and hungry,
   but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
 Come, my children, listen to me;
   I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
 Whoever of you loves life
   and desires to see many good days,
 keep your tongue from evil
   and your lips from telling lies.
 Turn from evil and do good;
   seek peace and pursue it.
Psalm 34: 1-14

I am so thankful for all of you who read my blog and have decided to take this ride of Bittersweet Insanity with me!  Be BLESSED!!!!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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