Wednesday I Am Thankful…

…to be part of God’s redemptive plan.

David and I have a friend named Adrian. He’s been looking for a job for several months, and just this week, he received two very different offers for two very different jobs. He says, “If I take the first job, I’ll just be a cog in a wheel. If I take the second job, I’ll be on the ground floor of something that could be great.”

Who wants to be the cog in a wheel, giving the credit and glory for his hard work to a boss who doesn’t notice him? Performing his job perfectly every day for the benefit of a machine that he can’t see or understand? No one.

And I wonder if that very-human feeling is why so many of us have trouble giving complete control of our lives over to God. But that is exactly what we are called to do. Paul praises the Christian Thessalonians for playing their very specific but often small parts in God’s plan, and he prays they will continue to do so:

All this [that the Christians will persevere for the sake of the Christ] is why we are constantly praying for you, so God will make you worthy of the great calling you have received from Him and will give you the power to accomplish every good intention and work of faith. Then the great name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified through your lives, and you will be glorified in Him according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, our Liberating King.–2 Thessalonians 1:11-12, The Voice

Sometimes–when we are allowing the Holy Spirit to guide us–the pieces of our lives that we don’t understand are working to bring the rest of the world to a place of reconciliation with God.

I am thankful that we “cogs” do have some knowledge of the “machine” we are part of. Paul gives us a glimpse of the Second Coming of the Christ, one of the final parts of God’s great plan for humanity: at the final judgment, the presentation of sinful men and women who have been redeemed through Jesus’ graceful sacrifice on the cross will be glorified with Him. He will be glorified in them (v. 12).

The evidence of the Christ’s glory will be personified by the lives of those of us who are saved.

So on Thanksgiving (and every day), I will make the choice to be thankful for any small part I get to play in God’s redemptive plan. I will try to remember that my actions reflect upon the Christ–today and forever. Instead of acting selfishly and sinfully in the short term, I’ll thank God for His words that should guide my actions. I’ll trust that He is leading me down a path that will reconcile more people to Him.

(And I’ll thank Him for Adrian’s new job!)

Tuesday I Am Thankful…

…for my suffering.

I suppose that suffering–be it personally experienced or simply observed–is one of the primary reasons people abandon God. So often it leaves the afflicted asking, Why does God let this happen?

Certainly the 1st-century new-Christian Thessalonians were asking that question as they endured civil persecution at the hands of unconverted Jews and pagans. So who better to answer their question than the apostle Paul, a Christian who had been wrongly imprisoned and physically assaulted by powerful men on multiple occasions. The apostle Paul, a once-powerful man who had done the wrongful imprisoning and physical assaulting of Christians on countless occasions.

His life–both before and after he recognized Jesus as the Christ–was consistently shaped by suffering, be he the oppressed or oppressor.

Paul wrote that strong and constant faith yields suffering. Then suffering yields strong and constant faith:

In the grip of much persecution and affliction, you’ve stood firm in your faith and have persevered. Your sufferings prove that God’s judgment is right! The result: your sufferings have made you worthy—worthy of the kingdom of God, which is the very reason why you are suffering in the first place! (2 Thessalonians 1:4-5, The Voice)

Paul is writing about suffering from an eternal perspective. He assumed the Christ would return within his lifetime, so he saw no distinction between the mundane and the divine.

After 2 millennia of waiting for His Second Coming, most of us no longer think this way. We don’t equate the suffering that results from miscarriage with an eternal battle. But we should.

Most of the physical, emotional, psychological, and even spiritual sufferings we endure as Christians can be beneficial. I consider the many years David and I spent failing to deliver babies. Those sufferings changed us not because we didn’t get what we wanted, but because we learned (the hard way!) to trust God’s plan for our lives. Even when it was contrary to our own plans.

So on Thanksgiving (and every day), I will make the choice to be thankful for my suffering. I will try to remember that suffering refines my faith. Instead of blaming Him for making me feel low, I’ll thank God for showing Himself to me when I need Him most. I’ll trust that He is growing my faith so I can be more useful in His great redemptive plan for humanity.

Monday I Am Thankful…

…for my community of friends & family.

As Paul, Silas, and Timothy were writing their second letter to the believers in Thessalonica, the young church there was enduring civil persecution by local unconverted Jews and pagans. (For a glimpse of the situation there, read Acts 17:1-9.)

The Thessalonian Christians were responding to false accusations, unlawful imprisonment, financial extortion, and public battery not by feeling sorry for themselves or running from their oppressors. They were banding together in love and faith:

Brothers and sisters, we cannot help but thank God for you, which is only appropriate because your faith is growing and expanding and because the love demonstrated by each and every one of you is overflowing for one another. (2 Thessalonians 1:3, The Voice)

The Christians’ reaction to hardship was the correct one–Paul praised them for it!–and it is a great example to anyone facing life-altering difficulties.

God intended humans to live their lives in communities.  We are stronger when we are together because we can protect, encourage, and edify each other physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We aren’t meant to carry our literal and figurative burdens alone.

So on Thanksgiving (and every day), I will make the choice the be thankful for everyone around me. I will try my best not be jealous of family and friends who have the children I desire. Instead of feeling sorry for myself and my miscarriages, I’ll thank God for giving me people who love me. Instead of running from children’s stores and Santa Claus lines, I’ll thank God for giving me godkids whom I can love, teach, spoil, and then return to their parents!