I believe that gratitude to God for the life He has given us, for His presence in our lives, for all the blessings, and even for all the challenges and pain is the very essence of our love for God. When I look back on my life, I was most burdened by the hell-fire-and-damnation church of my childhood. As I grew up God was the raven sitting on my shoulder ready to zap me for anything I did wrong. I was so negatively tied to God that I had to find a God I could love. And that search for a loving God started with my realization that there were different ways to interpret the Bible. As I lived that realization, I can see from where I am now how God was present to me in that early church and in the search for a positive God—I see His footprints everywhere. And I know that I would not have become a spiritual director and a Christian writer from the lens of a spiritual director without that early experience. That horrible church sent me off on this journey that has become so fulfilling to me.
I was also pretty mad at my mother who I felt had never seen me for who I am. In my mid-forties the Lord said this very clearly in my mind: “How can I say I love God if I can’t love my mother?” That one thought sent me off on a two-year journey to try to love her, but I was unsuccessful—still too much the rebellious teenager with her. Then, at the end of a weekend visit with her, my husband and I and my mother were standing on a railroad platform saying goodbye when we were surrounded by a cloud of love. That was my experience of it. My husband felt it, too, but my mother didn’t. Still, everything in our relationship changed in those few moments. From then on, I was able to love her for who she was and she was grateful for every single thing I did for her.
So, there He was again, helping me get over my anger at my mother. There were so many times in my life that I felt challenged by what was going on: struggles in my marriage, the fear and doubt that ruled my life until I surrendered my life to Christ, my son’s difficulties with his peers in school, my husband’s death, and more. But the Lord was always with me, supporting me, helping me, directing me, and loving me. What my life would have been like without Him since my early 40s I shudder to imagine. Every step of the way either through challenges or blessings, I have walked with Him. And He has taken care of me, held me when I needed it and challenged me when I needed that. I live in gratitude for every circumstance in my life, especially the challenges. I have learned so much from them that I would never have learned if they hadn’t happened to me.
I learned the hardest lesson fairly early in my walk with Jesus. I used to not accede to anything unless I understood “why?” it was happening. I drove myself nuts with all the whys until I finally realized that the reason anything had come into my life didn’t matter. The thing was already there and I needed to deal with it. With that opening, I was able to do the work required—mostly spiritual and psychological—and to learn the lessons that my walk with Jesus Christ brought to me.
Our lives are not to be set in concrete so that we can always predict what will happen to us. We are given by God the innate capacity to grow and change throughout our lives, if we so choose. If we just stay with the way we want things to be, we stay stuck forever. But if we are really willing to go beyond our beliefs in Jesus Christ to follow Him, then it is all good. And we are grateful for our lives. Thanks be to God!
Questions to ponder over the week: Do I live in gratitude to God for my life and how it has gone so far? Are there resentments I am holding on to that I can now let go of? What would I have to do to live in gratitude to God always?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who live in gratitude to God for all of our lives. May we be grateful for our companions along the way, our families, our purpose, and most of all for His love and forgiveness.
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- I am giving away a 10-week journaling guide to Jesus’s Two Great Commandments. If you are interested, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send it to you, free of charge.
- My latest books, “Called to Help the Poor and Needy” and “A Study Guide to the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount” are now in bookstores and on line. The first is about the more than 2,000 verses in the Bible which detail God’s instructions for caring for those in need. The second is a journaling/pondering guide to Jesus’s most complete sermon.