Friday, February 5, 2016

Have you thanked Him for it?

It was a cold winter morning and the warmth of the electric blanket swaddled me like a newborn babe. Although I was awake, I didn’t want to get out of bed, so I did what I usually do on those dark, snuggle down deep into your memory foam mattress moments…with my eyes still closed, I opened the drawer to my nightstand. My fingers drifted over bottles of pills and books until I felt my cell phone. Carefully, I lifted it out of the drawer and brought it over to the pillow lying on my chest. I reached back to close the nightstand drawer, because I’m a type A personality and I can’t stand to leave things left undone. 

I pressed the little button on the side of my Iphone and instantly was blinded by the light. I’d forgotten to turn down the brightness from yesterday’s jaunt to the mall. After finding my settings feature and readjusting the brightness to a lower setting, I jumped on the internet to find a sermon by my favorite preacher, Dr. Adrian Rogers. Although Dr. Rogers is now deceased, I love visiting his website, Love Worth Finding, and listening to his audio sermons.
I found a sermon on trials and adjusted the volume on my phone so I could barely hear it. I lay the phone right beside my ear and closed my eyes. Dr. Rogers had such a calming kindness to his voice and I enjoyed this quiet time with him in the wee hours of the morning. I listened intently as he talked about how God often uses trials to teach us. The words he spoke really touched my heart and made me think over past experiences with trying situations in my own life.

Dr. Rogers began talking about trials and the various reasons God allows them into our lives. He said that sometimes God uses trials to correct us with His loving hand and sometimes He allows trials to cause us to be more dependent upon Himself. He talked about Paul and how he was given some sort of ailment that caused him great pain. It was called a thorn in the flesh and he mentioned how Paul asked God three times to remove it, but God did not. Instead of removing the pain from Paul, God said, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:8-9). I thought about Paul and wondered what kind of pain he had. There’s nowhere in the Bible that explains that for us but some Biblical scholars suggest he had really bad eyesight while others suggest it was epilepsy or another malady. Whatever it was, God gave it to him to keep him from becoming “puffed up.”

In the middle of the sermon, Dr. Rogers made a statement that caused me to open my eyes and give him my full, undivided attention. He said, “If your trouble causes you to depend more upon God, can’t you realize we are to thank Him for it?” I had to replay that part of the sermon to make sure I heard him correctly, but before I had a chance to hit replay, Dr. Rogers said, “Have you thanked him for your trial?” Whoa! I paused the audio sermon and lay there in bed for a while mulling that statement over and over in my mind. I thought I’d come to pretty good grips with accepting and dealing with the breast cancer diagnosis I’d been given. Sure, it had taken me a while to do it, but I had done pretty good under the circumstances, or so I’d thought. But to thank God for it? Had I thanked Him for allowing me to have cancer in the first place??????? No, I had not.

I continued to listen to the rest of the sermon and Dr. Rogers continued giving reasons God allows trials. One more reason he shared was that God often uses trials to grow us in maturity, I was familiar with that one. I knew He’d used cancer to teach me so many things over the past year and a half. The sermon ended and I continued to lie there in the darkness. “Have you thanked Him?” kept echoing in my mind.

How do you thank God for allowing you to go through a very challenging time in your life? How can you be truly grateful for having to go through a tremendous amount of physical and emotional pain? The more and more I thought about it, the clearer it became. I’d been doing a study on the book of Job last month and one verse in Chapter 2 connected the dots here. Job was talking to his wife after all of his children, livestock, and earthly possessions had been destroyed. His wife is telling Job to curse God and die but this is what Job says, “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?”

It’s so easy to accept the good things from God, isn’t it? We all love it when He blesses us but when He sends or allows bad things into our lives, is it easy to thank Him for those too?

If we can look at trials and adversity as tools God uses to teach us, then yes, I think we can learn to thank Him for them, but often, in the middle of a trial, we can’t see very clearly. All we can see is the heartache and pain it’s causing us. We don’t see the reason for the trial until sometime later, after the trial is over…and sometimes, we don’t get an understanding of the reason for the trial for years and years down the road. In fact, God may not give us a clear answer on His reasons for the trial at all…ever.

As I continued to lie in the dark and think about Dr. Roger’s question, “Have you thanked Him for your trial?” I felt tears welling up in my eyes. I knew this was something I needed to do and I had to do it right then.

I turned off my phone and closed my eyes. I began to pray and share my heart with God. I told Him I was so sorry I hadn’t thanked Him for the trial of breast cancer. I told Him I knew He’d allowed it into my life to teach me and to grow me and to mature me. It wasn’t an easy thing to do, but I did it. And do you know what, I think God smiled.

I felt a peace in my heart after I’d thanked Him. I felt Him reminding me that I’m taking the right steps forward and that He’s got great things in store for me.

Nothing God ever does is random. He always does things in an orderly, perfectly timed fashion. Since I know Him and I know His character, I can trust Him.

The days ahead are filled with things I can’t see. I have absolutely no idea what He’s got in store for me in the next five minutes or in the next few days, but I will choose to trust Him and lean on Him for understanding and whether He sends good or evil into my life, I will choose to give Him thanks. The whole reason God is God and I am not is because He knows what’s best for us. He sees the whole picture. He knows when to use good things to teach us and when He needs to use difficult trials. Whatever He sends, whatever the reason, He should be given glory merely because He is God.

If you’re facing a difficult trial in your life right now, let me ask you a question, and I’m going to borrow from Dr. Adrian Rogers here…Have you thanked God for it? If not, remember, we’re supposed to. There’s a commandment that tells us to “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

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