Our guest writer this week is a dear friend who has walked through an incredible amount of pain and brokenness (both mine and hers) with me. Our stories intersected nearly 15 years ago…I was a naive teenager, she the young mom to twin baby boys. Her husband was deployed at the time, so I would go over to her house most days after school and spend several hours with her and the babies. I always say that Susan taught me how to have fun. When I met her, Susan’s life was not easy. And yet, she knew even then how to find joy and silliness amidst the pain and difficulty. Today, I get to share my friend’s words with you! You will be so blessed by her raw, real perspective. She has practiced the “sacrifice of praise” through incredible challenges and seemingly insurmountable mountains, a vitally important lesson I am still learning from her.
“Gratitude like this is fought for….you have to cry out – lament – rage. You join the psalmist saying “how long, O Lord” and then end your prayer in praise.”
I remember it like it was yesterday. Walking in our neighborhood at Fort Carson and needing to make a choice. I could either decide that God was exactly who I said I believed He was and admit that He was in control of my life despite the devastation I felt or I could throw away a lifetime of faith and say that there was no god – and life would just happen in a series of random events.
My husband was being deployed. Again. His contract was being extended so they could send him back to Iraq, just weeks after the birth of our daughter. The birth that had been wrought with complications, leaving me with a heart condition that made it difficult to stand, let alone care for my 2.5 year old twins and my newborn. If ever there was a time for God to step in, this was it.
My study of the Bible told me that God was in control and that He was sovereign over all. The God who parted the Red Sea, raised Lazarus from the dead and was preparing a place for me in heaven could in fact change my circumstances. But He didn’t.
As a person with chronic depression, this was only the first of many times that I had to acknowledge that believing in and worshiping the God of the bible meant that I could not look to my life as a barometer of God’s love and provision. My viewpoint was simply too limited. In a static moment in time, I couldn’t see all the ways He was moving on my behalf. I couldn’t anticipate the lessons I would learn. I couldn’t imagine the mercies He would show. Belief is faith. As an extension, gratitude is also faith.
Nichole Nordeman’s song “Gratitude” was an anchor for my soul during those months of his deployment. She sings, “We’ll give thanks to You with gratitude, for lessons learned in how to trust in You. That we are blessed beyond what we could ever dream, in abundance or in need and if You never grant us peace….but, Jesus, would You please….”
Her song captured my heart then and continues to move in me today. We are challenged to live a life of gratitude even if we never experience peace in this world. When my depression crushes my soul and I cannot face the day, I can respond in gratitude. When my needs for love and compassion go unmet, I can respond in gratitude. When my plans are stripped away and my future is uncertain, I can respond in gratitude.
Gratitude like this cannot be modeled after the kid who says “thank you” when given a cookie. Gratitude like this is fought for….you have to cry out – lament – rage. You join the psalmist saying “how long, O Lord” and then end your prayer in praise. You join the martyrs saying, “My God can save me, but even if He does not…”. You join generations of Christians who put their hope beyond what they could see. Gratitude like this can only come when we experience the presence of God deeper than the perceived reality surrounding us.
I wish I could say I was there…but I’m not. Instead, I trust in the mercy of my Father who watches over me as I throw my fits and give into despair and then experience His healing hands, time and time again, as He reminds me that He is who He says He is – no matter how I feel. And for that, I am eternally grateful.
What can I tell you about Susan? I could tell you that she is a super smart engineer/professor who will be graduating with her PhD in something crazy-over-my-head in just a couple months. I could tell you that she is wife to David and mom to three (almost) teenagers. I could tell you that she loves to travel and do fun, spontaneous things. OR I could tell you that she is the most faithful friend, she loves giving gifts, she is the BEST roadtrip buddy, and she mightttt have some interesting stories about dog ownership.