Giving Thanks Despite the Pain

psalm 9-1

It all started like this:

One can of those Pillsbury rolls, the kind where you have to pop the seal and you jump 2 feet in the air in surprise when you open them. .

Plus:

One bare foot.

Plus:

One sleepy mom on a Sunday morning.

Equals:

A can of Pillsbury cinnamon rolls slamming down onto that bare foot causing that sleepy mom a great deal of pain.

I limped around most of Sunday and finally eased my foot out of my shoe Sunday evening (after finally giving up on the pain just going away.)

My big toe was swollen and green (yes, green).

Nice.  I guess I broke my toe or something along those medical lines.

And, when you move around doing a lot of stuff (as a mom with four kids does), it turns out you kind of need your big toe not to be throbbing with excruciating pain.

Who knew?

I’ve been celebrating the tiny stages of recovery this week. Sure, my foot has changed a few colors, but it hurts less.

Yesterday I could move my toe and wear a regular pair of shoes again.

But now, since I’ve been walking funny for four days, I’ve noticed aches in my leg and other toes.

They are a reminder that something isn’t doing it’s job in my body and other parts are compensating.

This tiny bit of brokenness, this irritating ache has me aware.

I’m aware of my toe’s value, of everything I’ve taken for granted and all that it normally does for me.

I’m aware of what I actually need to do and what I can let go of for a while until I’m walking again without the limp.

And, I’m aware of tiny graces and the mercies I might otherwise overlook.

I remember the moment I realized my toe wasn’t going to simply sting for a few minutes and then feel better.

“Great,” I thought, “I have to do Children’s Church today!  Tomorrow, I start a week with a whole lot of driving and times when I’ll be working with kids and moving all around.  This is really bad timing.”

That’s true, of course.  My week would have been easier without a foot injury.

But I’ve been okay.

Sometimes we can work ourselves up into despair.  The one thing we pray won’t happen (of course) happens. We can’t ever see it getting better.  The timing is awful.  The provision is scarce.

And all that might very well be true.

Even then, though, even in the worst…or the uncomfortable, the painful, the unwanted, the heartbreaking, and the disappointing. He can transform the “worst thing” into a “God thing” with whispers of His grace, hints of His love, and reminders of His presence.

It’s like getting a thank you card just when you felt overlooked.

Or your two-year-old son not having a tantrum during that important meeting even though he missed his nap today.

It’s getting unexpected provision when you felt overwhelmed by one extra expense too many this month.

It’s God’s comfort and strength as you mourn.

It’s making it through the week with an aching toe and it all working out just fine even when you didn’t think it could.

I’ve been praying so much this year–for others, for my family–for big miracles, for visible deliverance, for undeniable healing, for rescue and provision.

But I also want to be aware of the daily blessings, the brushes with grace, the tender mercies.

I want to remember the way God sometimes doesn’t deliver me from difficult circumstances or disappointment or hurt.  But He does deliver me through. 

The Psalmist wrote:

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;
    I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.” (Psalm 9:1 ESV)

ALL His wonderful deeds–not just the grand ones.

Timothy Keller says,

“We must discern God’s ‘wonderful deeds’ in our lives, a phrase that can refer to dramatic miracles like the parting of the Red Sea. However, we must also learn to see the more subtle ways God comforts us just when we were ready to give up, or brings the right friend or book or line of thinking into our lives just when we needed it” (The Songs of Jesus).

God didn’t keep that cinnamon roll can from hitting my toe.  He didn’t miraculously heal my foot after I’d hurt it.

Those would have been wonderful.

But He’s helping me make it through, and that’s wonderful, too.

He’s changing my focus from the worst, the disappointment, the hurt and the stress to His comfort and help just when I need it.

And I give Him thanks with all my heart.

Thanksgiving Devotions: Thank You For This Day

Every year, my daughters’ preschool teacher pulls the children aside individually and asks an important question:

What are you thankful for?

As a mom, I’ve grown accustomed to the tradition.  The week of Thanksgiving, I can check the bulletin board outside of the classroom and see what crazy thing popped out of my child’s mouth in that one moment with her teacher.

I think I’ve only ever had one year where a daughter was thankful for me.

Mostly, they’ve been thankful for loose teeth or funny things their dad does or some toy that I never see them actually play with.  This year, my girl was thankful for her stuffed animals.

Thanksgiving tends to highlight what’s important to us, usually family and friends more than toys, but still we’re motivated to be grateful at least one month, or week, or day out of the year.

Some of us start Thanksgiving journals and gratitude lists.  Others post daily Facebook status updates of what we’re thankful for this year (or sort of “daily updates,” more like once every few days with lots of catching up).

We’re sincerely excited to acknowledge the blessing and it’s beautiful in its season.

One of the things I love about my little girl, though, is that she isn’t just thankful for stuffed animals when the teacher pulls her aside for the annual preschool Thanksgiving assignment.

Every single time she prays, she begins with, “Dear God, thank You for this day.”

Mealtime prayers, bedtime prayers, prayers in June or in December, if it starts with “Dear God” and ends with “Amen,” she’s thankful for the day she’s had.  Time-outs, sadness, fights with her sisters, none of that can mar her thankful heart.

I’m reminded of Daniel, who prayed in a similar way in Babylon.  Despite exile far from his beloved Jerusalem and his family, despite political intrigue and plots against him, despite religious persecution and antisemitism, still Daniel prayed.

And he didn’t just plead and petition God for help in the midst of sorrow or stress.

He “knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days” (Daniel 6:10)

He prayed on his knees.  Three times a day.  Every day.  Not so everyone could see, but in a manner people could notice if they chose to look his way.

And he “gave thanks.”

That’s why King Darius knew there was hope for Daniel even after he was shut up in a darkened den of ravenous lions and locked in overnight.

The King trusted in the God “whom you serve continually” (Daniel 6:16, 6:20) and his trust was not misplaced.

Daniel’s faithful, day in and day out, no matter what the circumstances, continual determination to get down on his knees and give thanks to God was blessed in that moment.  God sent the angel to slam shut the jaws of the lions until Daniel could be lifted out of the pit unscathed.

It might seem that the miracle was the reason to give thanks, and that’s what King Darius did, issuing a proclamation of praise to the “Living God” of Daniel.

But Daniel had been giving thanks all along.

Thanksgiving is over this year.  We’ve feasted and visited family and friends.  We’ve probably thought and even shared what we’re thankful for this year.

But I don’t want to just be a once-a-year grateful girl.

I want to be thankful for this day and the next and the one after that, regardless of the circumstances or annoyances or even fears.

I want to make it a discipline and attitude and habit of mind and heart to give thanks to God, maybe three times a day, maybe 20 times a day.

I want people to refer to my God as the one “whom I serve continually,” not periodically, or seasonally, or around the holidays.

When they see the lions’ den, I want people to know my God can rescue and deliver.

Don’t you?

If that’s our true desire, then our first step is today.  When everyone else has finished the annual mantra of thanks and the turkey is reduced to leftovers and others have moved on to Christmas lists and shopping, we make a choice to be thankful.

Today we choose to pause and give praise, give specific thanks, notice God at work and drop our head for a whispered moment of gratefulness.  We choose to look past the obvious and the bothersome or scary, to see reasons to thank Him “for this day” every…single…day of the year to come.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King