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Guest Post – Gratitude Part 6 {I Forgot . . . Again}

Today is the last in this short series on gratitude. Many thanks to Liz for allowing me to share her series here. Don’t forget to remember their family when purchasing on Amazon! In case you missed the first part of the series; one, two, three, four, and five.

So now that I’ve learned these things, I have no problem expressing gratitude for every circumstance that comes my way, right? Surely my hand and heart constantly remain open to whatever God has for me in every moment of every day?

False.  Absolutely not.  I forget – over and over again.

I wake up exhausted and think Really?? Another day of this?

An uninvited change takes place in my life and I say This is not what I want.  How can You throw that curveball at me and expect me to be joyful in it?

A friend shares a burden, and I close my hand right up and say No God. This is not fair.  This is too much.  This is not good.

Once again I must remind myself of the things I know to be true.  I must remember that the Lord gives and the Lord takes away (Job 1:21).  I must go back to the gospel.  I deserve nothing good.  Yet, God in his mercy graciously gives me all things!

God gently reminds me that though I may feel my circumstances are robbing me of the ability to be joyful, the actual joy thief here is my idolatry.  My insistence that I know what’s best for me.  My tight grip on the superficial happiness this world has to offer.  My refusal to acknowledge God’s love for me in the midst of His sovereign plan for me.  These are the things that rob me of joy.

Reorienting to the cross – to the truth of God’s great love for me despite my sinful heart.  This is where I must start.  This is where I must go to be reminded that if God loved me enough to give up His only Son for me, everything He brings into my life is for my good. Every. Single. Thing.  When I release my desires and open that hand back up to whatever He has for me, the joy I thought had been taken away once again emerges.

And I’ll forget again.  Maybe tomorrow.  Maybe in 10 minutes.  But no matter how many times I forget, God is still faithful and His love is unfailing!  Over and over again I come to the cross.  Over and over again He loves and forgives.  This is the gospel.  Lord I believe.  Help my unbelief.

To close, here’s another song I’ve been loving recently, thanking God for the heartbreak.  Even in my worst times, You’re my reason and rhyme…


But I am not a woman who ever lives the full knowing.  I am a wandering Israelite who sees the flame in the sky above, the pillar, the smoke from the mountain, the earth open up and give way, and still I forget.  I am beset by chronic soul amnesia.  I empty of truth and need the refilling.  I need come again every day—bend, clutch, and remember—for who can gather the manna but once, hoarding, and store away sustenance in the mind for all of the living. 
 – Ann Voskamp

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Guest Post – Gratitude Part 5 {Thankful For Lupus?}

Today is part five in the brief series on gratitude.  Read parts one, two, three, and four. Tomorrow will be the last post in the series.

My last post ended with some hard truth laid out in front of me – truth that I didn’t get and I didn’t like.

As I continued reading One Thousand Gifts,  Ann writes that she realized the problem lies in our perspective.  Our perspective on life’s events is quite different from God’s perspective.  Our definition of ‘good’ is often different from God’s definition of ‘good.’  The only way to change this perspective is by looking at our circumstances through the filter of His Word.  When I lose my focus on Christ and on the truths of the Bible, the doubts about God’s goodness begin to creep in.

I look at lupus and think “This is not a good thing; therefore, this cannot be a gift from God” when I really should be saying “My good God gave this to me, therefore it is good for me.”

Job 2:10 says “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”  I simply cannot say I believe in the sovereignty of God and not believe that these are gifts from him.
Romans 8:32 says  “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”  If God didn’t withhold from us his very own Son, why do I think that he will withhold anything that I need?  This realization should make me broken before God, as I deserve nothing good.
Ann writes “When I realize that it is not God who is in my debt but I who am in His great debt, then doesn’t all become gift?”
Mark Driscoll recently tweeted, “We deserve @#!*% .  Everything else is a gift.  That’s a lot of gifts.”
As God revealed more of these truths to me, I began to realize why the simple act of thanking God for that barking dog quickly changed my frustration to joy.  I’m learning that being grateful for something doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m happy about it.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s what I desired or what I would’ve chosen for myself.  But it does mean that I’ve chosen to trust and submit to the One who’s in control of my life – trust that He knows what’s best for me.
Jerry Bridges said, “Thanksgiving is an admission of dependence.”    I’ve learned that my “suck it up and deal with it” attitude toward my illness is actually a subtle form of self-reliance.  I will take this hard thing and will buckle down and push through it.  I will try my hardest to remain positive, even if it means plastering the most fake smile on my face you’ve ever seen.  I want to give God the praise for the great things that happened to me, yet I try to come up with ways to handle the hard things on my own.  This is self-reliance.  This is pride.  And I badly needed to be broken in these areas.
I must be willing, not just to “deal with” the hard things that come my way in life, but to submit to the One who’s in control of them and to be thankful for their presence in my life.  Yes, this means that I can be thankful that God has given me lupus.But I cannot be grateful – I cannot count the hard things as gifts – if I’m not trusting God completely.  And not just with the big things.  The small things too.  If everything I receive is from God, then I can find joy in the little things.  I can find joy in socks, apple pies, and electric can openers.

As I practice gratitude, it is possible to experience great joy in the midst of hard things.  Those mornings when I wake up sore and stiff all over – and I have to give myself a little pep talk just to get out of bed?  I can be thankful for that.Those evenings when my to-do list is a mile long, but my fatigue becomes so overwhelming that I’m resigned to sitting on the couch being completely unproductive?  I can be thankful for that.Those times I have to turn down an invitation somewhere because I know doing that “fun” thing will use up the energy I need to do something more important the next day?  I can be thankful for that.

This video is one of my favorite songs right now and goes along well with what God’s been teaching me in this area.  I’d really encourage you to listen to this entire beautiful song.

As I open my hand each day to whatever God has for me – as I open my hand each moment to whatever God has for me – I can have peace, and yes even joy, knowing that my good God will only give good gifts.

It’s our wild desire to protect our joy at all cost that smothers our joy. Like a flame needs oxygen, joy needs an open hand. – Ann Voskamp

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Guest Post – Gratitude Part 4 {Being Thankful For}

Parts one, two, and three are available if you missed them.

As I continued reading and gaining more insight into the topics of thankfulness and joy, the next few chapters of One Thousand Gifts were hard.  Not so much hard to understand as hard to accept.  As I said before, I understood being thankful despite negative circumstances – there’s always something good despite the bad that I can be thankful for.  But suddenly we moved from the topic of being thankful despite the hard things to being thankful for the hard things.  This was a whole different ball game to me.

As Ann proposed that even the hard things we go through are gifts from God, I immediately began thinking of lupus.  Lupus – a gift? Something I should be thankful for?  No – lupus is something I have to deal with, and I will do my best to be positive despite the frustrations that come along with it.  But be thankful for it? That is crazy talk.

Thinking back over sermons I’ve heard on thankfulness, I remember preachers even saying that of course we’ll never thank God for suffering.  We’ll thank Him for strengthening us through our trials.  We’ll even look back and thank Him for some of the good things that came out of times of suffering.  But one would have to be crazy to actually be grateful for the suffering.

And then I read Ephesians 5:20 that says, “Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father…”

Gulp.

What do you do when someone plainly spells out the truth to you, and yet it goes against what you feel or what makes sense to you?  Fighting it is the natural response.  And I fought this.   As I struggled, I decided to focus on the things I already knew to be true.

Here is what I know:

God is sovereign.  In control of everything.
Isaiah 14:24 says, “The Lord of hosts has sworn: ‘As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand.” (ESV)
Lamentations 3:37 says, “Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it?
The fact that I have lupus is not some chance roll-of-the-dice event.  It is in God’s plan for me.  It is not a mistake.
All I have comes from God.
James 1:17 tells us that “every good and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father…” (ESV)
Psalm 24:1 “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.” (NIV)
1 Chron 29:14  “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.” (NIV)
Psalm 50:10-11  “For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills.  I know all the birds of the hills, and all that move in the field is mine.” (ESV)
God is good and desires good things for me.
Psalm 84:11 says “…no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” (KJV)
Matthew 7:11 “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (ESV)
Because the above statements are found in God’s word, I can be confident that they are truth.  So what happens when I put them all together?If I know that God is sovereign and that all I have comes from Him, and if I know that God is good and desires good things for me,doesn’t this mean that everything that happens to me is a gift from Him?  Ann writes, “A good God plans everything.  Everything.  So a good God can only…make plans for good?  He only gives good gifts?”

So, here is this truth laid out in front of me.  Yet, I don’t get it, and I don’t like it.  How can I possibly look at lupus and see something good?

Thou hast given so much to me, Give one thing more, – a grateful heart; Not thankful when it pleaseth me, As if Thy blessings had spare days, But such a heart whose pulse may be Thy praise. – George Herbert

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