What's in your Hand?
A few months ago, a pastor with a gift of healing came to minister in our church. Watching God heal many sicknesses through him was a thrilling experience. There was a lady who had pain in her neck and, she was able to move it freely afterwards. Praise God. A few weeks later I bumped into her. I told her I’d been excited watching God heal her. ‘Yes, my neck is fine now’ she agreed. Then added with a sigh ‘The other pains are all there. So it doesn’t help much.’ She frowned. She has chronic pain in many parts of her body. Pain is not easy to live with and can be disabling. I did feel for her.
I wished God healed her totally. But as I looked at her dejected countenance that day, I reflected on the fact that it’s very easy for us to focus on what we don’t have rather than what we do. Psychologists tell us that we need 5 positive thoughts to counter every negative thought. Test yourself and you might find it’s true. If most aspects of your life are going beautifully but just one thing upsets you – check where you focus lies. On the 139 positives or on the 1 negative? I think you might be surprised?
As I thought about it, it occurred to me that my response to God’s goodness was sometimes similar to this lady’s attitude. God had healed me too that night of the pain I’d endured in my ankles for 5 months. I’m now blessed with two working feet. But when I suffer with a flare-up of fibromyalgia, I’d often forget His wonderful gift of healing and focus instead on my fibro pain and exhaustion. Yes. It’s easy to focus on my losses. A few weeks ago, I applied for what I thought was my perfect job - mentoring girls in a Christian High School. I felt excited as I sent in my application. But as the weeks passed by, I realised I hadn't been called for an interview. I was deeply disappointed. And I focused on what I didn't have.
But what about what I do have! Over the past 2 years, God seemed to be taking away many things that were dear to me and I have shed many tears in His loving Presence. Grieving our losses is important so I won’t apologise for it. In fact, I believe grieving is needed in order to heal as I should and to emerge without bitterness. But, in the midst of my anguish and pain, counting my blessings was a life-giving occupation.
And that’s something I CAN do – no matter what the loss and no matter what the season. Most of us have a roof over our heads, clothes to wear, food to eat, family and friends, work to do, beauty around us, hope, life, love. And more. So much more. A good practice then when I start despairing over my losses is adding up all I do have. Ann Voskamp’s poignant book ‘One Thousand Reasons’ blessed me this year and I decided to find 1000 reasons to thank God for. It sounds a huge number doesn’t it? But you know, God’s mercies are new every morning. And His blessings overflow in our lives – often unnoticed. Since my beloved Mum died earlier this year, I've been using a praise-filled hand-made journal gifted by my sister to jot down those blessings. I've not reached 1000 yet but I'm on my way.
And you know what? When musing on that job I didn't get, God showed me that not having a job actually provides me with unique blessings. Plenty of precious moments to spend with Him, extra opportunities of ministering to my son, time to smell the roses, more space and ability to spend writing. They are all gifts from my Father's loving Hand.
Do you wish you could turn the clock back and transform the past? Unfortunately life does happen to all of us. Often in ways that hurt us. Change occurs. Frequently in ways we didn’t envisage. A question I need to ask myself after each season of loss and change would be: “What’s left in my hand?”
The truth is that if I didn’t have pain – my pain-free moments would not feel as sweet. If I hadn’t known rejection, I wouldn’t understand the thrill of acceptance. If I didn’t feel the pangs of sadness, joy would not have me jumping up and down. If I never suffered – those 'normal' moments in life might easily be taken for granted. What’s in my hand today? A bower of blessings and treasures. Riches from my beloved Father’s bounty.
So as we grieve for our losses let’s not stop there. Let’s turn our groaning into praise; our sadness into dancing. Every morning, I can decide if I should put in my gown of mourning. Or wear instead my stunning robe of Joy, the one Jesus came to place on my shoulders. Have you counted your blessings lately?
What’s in your hand today?
“Be joyful always; pray continually;
give thanks in all circumstances,
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18