Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thankful for the Struggle

A few days ago, I had the wonderful blessing of celebrating another year of life. As the years pass, I continue to be astounded at what I have yet to learn and how immature I continue to be in living in a way that truly blesses others and contributes to the work God has called me to do not only as a pastor in particular, but a Christian in general. I find that the more I inspect my soul and consider my thoughts and inclinations, I find a rather selfish person residing there. My true inner and unspoken goals tend to be seeking comfort and minimizing my own pain and suffering. I may not appear to be a hedonist, but I sure do like having a good time, or at least a comfortable one, and find myself secretly desiring to avoid difficulties if at all possible.
But then reality hits! If I don’t find myself in difficulty, there are friends, loved ones, acquaintances and strangers who stumble into one of life’s troubling circumstances. Before long, it becomes apparent that God has a plan for me to place myself in a particular situation in a way that makes a difference, which means, getting dirty, tired and sometimes beat up for the sake of another’s well-being. Somewhere in the midst of the battle for someone else, it seems the Lord brings to mind a time when I myself was hurt, betrayed, disabled, confused, angry, frustrated or totally vulnerable.

He reminds me of the feel of the moment; the challenge, the pain and the sometimes helplessness that caused me to cry out to Him for help in my own anguish. Then He reminds me of how He answered through those who responded to my need – the unexpected call to check up on me. The card with words of comfort. The out of nowhere visit that lasted for hours as I poured out my heart to a listening, understanding and non-judgmental ear. The laser-focused attention and effort from a stranger who had never seen me before my troubled predicament and who would never see me again after their offering of help was complete.

God reminds me that it is my painful and challenging moments of life that should season and mature me to realize that pain and struggle are realities, but realities meant to prepare my heart to reach out to others and offer them the comfort I myself have received. I must be thankful for the struggle for it is in the stuggle that I learn to become less focused on myself and more attentive to God’s purposes and the needs of others. It is in the struggle that I am meant to understand just how much pain hurts and just how important it is to pay attention to the pain of others and to walk with them when the climb is steep, rocky and precarious.

Therefore, on this particular Thanksgiving, I thank God for the struggles of my life: professional, personal, medical, familial, emotional, relational - All of them! I pray that as time continues to march, I may be found growing in maturity, living a life that is less about me and increasing in the focus and drive towards loving and serving God and others. I also pray that these thoughts will cement themselves in my brain and have a lasting impact that will endure beyond the turkey, football games and Black Friday sales! I give all who read this permission to hold me accountable. After all, that’s what friends are for! Have a Happy Thanksgiving and don’t forget to be thankful even for the struggles. Someone else will be thankful that you did! Until next time…


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