A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all. Psalm 34:19
Every year, my family and I spend the month of November writing down what we are thankful for. In the beginning, when we lived far away from home in the Arab world, I simply cut the paper which came as wrapping around the bread from the local bakery. I created a turkey and piled a basket full of paper snipped to resemble feathers.
As we thought of things for which to be grateful, we jotted them down on a paper feather and stuck them to the turkey. Mommy and Daddy, one little dear scribbled. Abdullah’s tickles, wrote another. Olives, wrote a precocious six-year-old. Grandmommy’s visit from America. By the end, Tom Turkey had a fully feathered tail of wonderful, happy pronouncements of gratitude. In a country where there was no Thanksgiving Day, this unusual wall art was a fascinating conversational topic with our friends.
I have lived in my home country for several years now, and we continue the tradition. Now we have replaced the homemade paper turkey with a handcrafted, ornate iron stand which holds our gratitude cards. But this year, as I pulled it out for our treasured tradition, I realized my list was not so happy.
This has been a year of pain and challenge, intermingled with the sacred and mysterious joy of God’s faithfulness that comes alongside suffering and toiling.
I stood and stared at the pretty stand for a long while, my gratitude clouded by the weariness of hard days. As I looked with God upon my year, He gently showed me what I could not easily see alone.
What we have been given this year is worthy of gratitude; yes, it is worthy of praise and thanksgiving.
Surgery, heart disease, death, disappointment, struggle. Hope, perseverance, faith, eternal life, comfort, help.
In the midst of all these trials, there has been hidden a treasure, a gem for those who would search for it.
In light of heaven I imagine if I could see my soul, my character before God, I would be very grateful indeed. For through the pressures, the stripping, the scouring of my life through trials and pain this year, I have been changed.
I have seen God in the darkness, and I have felt His steadying hand in the storm. I have learned to trust Him more. I think my soul is better for the suffering, though it pains me even to say it.
An unlikely gratitude list, to be sure. But it is mine this year, and my heart sings thanksgiving to my God.
Lord, show me the riches in my suffering this Thanksgiving and help me bring my unlikely gratitude list to you as I trust you more. Amen.