This year, I’m going to be grateful for all the things I didn’t get or didn’t happen as I wished. And for the prayers God answered in the negative. I’m going to thank the Lord for the hard times — the low times — that knocked the wind out of me or caused me to slip and slide. I’ll be grateful for those times I would categorize as disappointments or dead ends, and for people God surrounds me with who keep me humble — those who withhold praise, give criticism or are uncomfortable to be around. As writers, we certainly experience many of the above.
Why, you ask? Isn’t that a bit unorthodox? Or unconventional?
Yes. Well . . . No.
Rather, I think it is brilliant; an idea brought forth by a visionary — one who sees the future and its potential. One who sees how things can ‘work together for good.’ In that case, I’d say the Apostle Paul was one such person. In fact, he saw that his ’thorn in the flesh’ God chose to gift him worked humility in Paul. The impairment forced him to rely on the Lord, rather than himself.
And that’s what challenging moments in our lives accomplish – death to self and growth towards God. So why aren’t we begging for more?
In my middle-grade historical fiction, The Heart Changer, Miriam is captured from her hometown of Shunem by Naaman, the captain of the Syrian army, and forced to work for his wife (whom I’ve named Adara). I imagined her to be like any 12-year-old girl faced with the same tragedy: full of angst and bitterness and with a big helping of fear.
Before her town was destroyed and her family dispersed or possibly slaughtered, Miriam was a good girl – or so she thought. But when her faith was tested, Miriam did not shine like gold. And frankly, neither would I in her circumstance. Instead, her sinful self was revealed. And God used her captivity to bring Miriam to the end of herself and lead her towards the God who does all things well — her heavenly Father. As He worked in her heart it began to change —towards God AND her captor.
Trials are messengers sent to prune us, redirect us, and strengthen our faith. So why don’t we treasure those hard times, as persecuted Christians do, knowing they are identifying with Christ’s sufferings?
Truthfully, it’s our human nature — who would ask to be sifted like wheat, or refined like silver in a hot vat? Selfishly, we want to preserve our comfort and not relinquish it. But in doing so, we give up the opportunity to grow in our faith and be Christ-like. We miss the chance to be a testimony to the unbelieving around us so they stand in wonder at our peaceful countenance and ask the reason for our faith.
God in his sovereignty doesn’t always give us what we want but ALWAYS what we need. So let’s be grateful this Thanksgiving for wants unfulfilled. For difficult people. For hard circumstances. Even rejection — from publishers, agents and fellow writers. For in those situations we grow exponentially in the likeness of Christ. To be like our Savior and Lord. Which I believe will translate to better enjoyment of Heaven (if you can imagine), bringing much glory to the Father.
How about you? Can you think of one pout-able incident or unanswered prayer to be thankful for this season of gratitude? Take time to reflect on the work that your Father, the giver of all good gifts, is performing in your heart and soul this season. Maybe He is steering you in a new direction. A place where you can shine brightest.
”For this reason, we, from the day when we had word of it, keep on in prayer for you, that you may be full of the knowledge of his purpose, with all wisdom and experience of the Spirit, Living uprightly in the approval of the Lord, giving fruit in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Full of strength in the measure of the great power of his glory, so that you may undergo all troubles with joy. . .” Colossians 1:9-11
*This story was first published in Ambassador International’s newsletter in November 2020