“Thanks” Series—Guest Post by Chris Hendrix

CC BY-NC, @DartmoorGiant, Flickr
CC BY-NC, @DartmoorGiant, Flickr

This post is the second in this week’s “Thanks” series that features quotes on thankfulness given by notable Christians. Chris Hendrix, writer of Devotions By Chris, reflects on the following quote by early American theologian Albert Barnes.

“We can always find something to be thankful for, and there may be reasons why we ought to be thankful for even those dispensations which appear dark and frowning.”

As things in my life went downhill ten years ago, my brother helped me to keep things in perspective. Over the course of a few months, an employee of mine, her husband, and child died in a crash; I got pulled into a legal fight for the remaining child; my wife had an affair while I was distracted by the legal battle; she then left me for the other man; and my business went under and I filed for bankruptcy.

While having a pity party one day, my brother looked me in the eye and said, “Believe it or not, someone else has it worse than you do. You can be thankful you’re not them.” No sooner than his words hit my ear, they pierced my heart. I had been feeling like my life was worse than what Job had experienced; the truth was my life wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

When my thoughts of pity changed, my perspective changed. I quit trying to find others to feel sorry for me and started finding reasons to be thankful. My situation hadn’t changed; in fact, it got worse. Instead, what changed when I decided to become thankful was how I saw myself in the storm I was in and the purpose of the storm.

Not a Victim

Instead of asking “Why me, God?” I began to ask “What am I to learn from this?” Being thankful changed me from being a victim to a student. Even in my darkest hour God had something to show me and was desperately trying to get my attention. I had been stubbornly ignoring his call and living how I wanted to live. I had ignored his gentle warnings and signals to change how I was living; now his attempts at getting my attention grew louder and louder. God wasn’t content to let me live my life my way; he wanted me to live it his way. I’m thankful now that he didn’t leave me in the life I was living.

The theologian Albert Barnes said, “We can always find something to be thankful for, and there may be reasons why we ought to be thankful for even those dispensations which appear dark and frowning.” In my life I’ve always remembered that someone has it worse than anything I will ever face. I am thankful when I think about that. When times are tough and life isn’t going the way I think it should or I feel I’ve been dealt a bad hand, I no longer pretend I’m the victim. I know now that even when things appear bad or like they can’t get worse, God is there in the storm with me. He hasn’t left me or forsaken me. He’s enduring it with me and wants to use the experience for his glory.

An Attitude of Gratitude

If you’re in the middle of a storm and you feel like things can’t be worse, I challenge you to find something to be thankful for. Are you still breathing? Then you have something to be thankful for. Your life isn’t over. God can rebuild it from the ruins where you are now.

Lose the victim mentality and become a student of what God wants to show you. To change your perspective you have to change your mindset. A changed mindset begins with a thankful heart. Things may not get better right away, but being thankful will give you a purpose in hard times. That purpose, combined with a thankful heart, will pull you through.

Read more by Chris on his blog Devotions By Chris.

The Way of Our Father

CC BY-SA, mariachily, Foter
CC BY-SA, mariachily, Foter

God is not as reticent as we think he is.

I’m learning to pray, Lord, help me not to miss crucial little things about my present life and circumstances that will explain lessons later. I’ve come to realize that God is not insensitive to us when we hurt and beg for answers, yet he answers on his own terms. Moreover, he responds in love and with the wisdom of his precise timing.

Think of a book you once read and didn’t comprehend: perhaps you finished it and more than likely you didn’t. A few years later you decided to read it again, especially since everyone except you seemed to love it. This time, however, you read it and couldn’t get enough of it. You were amazed that you never noticed all that was happening the first time.

God is that way with us. Sometimes we feel he’s not explaining himself too well, but it is his will to share with us about the matters we face.  “Call to me,” he says, “and I will answer you; I will tell you wonderful and marvelous things that you know nothing about” (Jer. 33:3, GNT). Still, some lessons are deeply formative ones to our faith—why something happened, why he didn’t act—and God, perhaps nestled above on the rock, tarries until we’ve climbed to where he’s waiting to speak with us.

Walk with God long enough and you’ll discover that for many lessons he patiently awaits our growth into them. It’s not always that we’re immature or lacking in some way, but rather certain experiences—the ‘crucial little things’—enjoined with our matured faith and his guiding voice cause us to BEHOLD what we never could have understood about his purpose at the time we demanded an explanation of him.

He’s too wise for our own good.

Let’s praise him for taking his time to speak to us about our cares. Let’s endure circumstance and not waste valuable experience. Let’s care to know only what the Father wishes to share because that’s all we’ll need to trust him later. Let’s never forget that what we learn becomes our ministry.

Another post on this topic: Hail the Morning Light

How to Handle a Crisis of Faith

CC BY-NC, Ross Merritt Photography, Flickr
CC BY-NC, Ross Merritt Photography, Flickr

Why does God never leave me?—that’s what I wonder sometimes. Yes, I know the answers, but sometimes it’s helpful to let yourself go there. It keeps you humble and concentrating on grace. And why is it that the more the heat has been raised in my life—whether by God’s fire of testing or my playing with sinful fire—or the more distant I once grew toward him, the more consuming were my thoughts of him?

Why did I never turn away when God felt too far to reach?

I may never understand any of it, except to know that when I would have run away, he simply wouldn’t let me go, or I, like Jacob in flight, ran smack into him any way I went.

When I lived in Indianapolis and trekked through a real spiritual wilderness, one day I was driving from my workplace and listening to a Catholic priest in a radio interview. I don’t recall the specific question he was asked, but it was something like how to explain people who question God or grow sullen in difficult times. I perked up. His response still resonates with me.

He stressed that people who wrestle with their faith often do so not to distance themselves from God, but to reach for him. I understood exactly what he meant. Hopefully that includes being angry at God, too. I once viewed anger at God as a terrible thing (who would dare!) until I got angry with him.

What I’ve learned is that anger and stressed faith will happen and is sometimes necessary in our process. The heart that truly loves God, however, does not shake its fist at him but strains to comprehend his will, to see in the dark. What may look like a fight with God to others (and sometimes to us) is but a fit of frustration to know him better. For me, I realized how ingrained faith was in my soul. Quitting God was no option.

“Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is none upon earth I desire besides you. My heart and flesh fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. ” Psalms 73:25-26

After going through the ho-hums long enough, we gain insight. We learn to discern God’s designs for something foremost within us rather than any external conditions we need solved, although God works in our affairs, too. We also learn to measure the degree of our frustration. We may have our “moments” and get low on faith and stray and crave sin and smolder, but we do so with our faith mostly intact. We can only imagine what it would be like tackling life without God or the Holy Spirit’s restraint.

I’ve learned to latch onto this faith ride. I once had the notion that I could simply abandon myself to faith, as if setting a dial to make sure I remain in a proper state of heart. But now I realize that I cannot store faith and that God designs our process to deal with our specific inner needs. It is not possible to be passive in our own making. The heat that God brings into our lives is there to make us move! So faith is not a dial I can set but a wheel I must steer on my journey.

Not to be contradictory, I’ve learned to retain just enough indifference for it all not to matter so much. Don’t let that surprise you and if it does, stay on the journey—it’ll make sense soon enough. But take it all in stride. This is letting the top down to enjoy the sun and breeze and taking in the view, allowing God to care about the terrain we must travel.