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December 18, 2016, 12:00 AM

The Top Ten Things God Has Taught me From Breaking my Neck and Becoming Paralyzed - # 10 Thankfulness


 

Medically speaking, it’s safe to say my life has been a challenge the last 27 years. Some medical issues I feel are a personal burden between God and me, so I don’t share much about them at this point in my life. Some that I do share about are; severe nervous system damage from a broken neck, infection problems sometimes requiring years of IV antibiotics, joint replacements in my neck, knee and feet as well as a constant battle to learn to walk, wounds that won’t heal and fingers that don’t work. But I can say, without reservation, I am thankful for who I am. I am thankful for THIS me. This can be perplexing to some when I mention that, but I think it is because we don’t give thankfulness the importance in our life that we should.

As it stands, I think giving thanks has lost much of its meaning, especially before the material and emotionally draining “Holiday Season Celebration” consumes all of our time with parties, events and the search for an emotional feeling about the goodness of mankind. Then, it’s gone and we are left with a train wreck that usually takes the form of a much needed rest and a credit card statement that leaves us wondering how we will get it paid off before the next holiday. That leaves our thankfulness as a few moments; moments of prayer before a big dinner, or, during the climax of a church Christmas program, or, possibly a few moments stolen to be alone and reflect about the condition of our lives. I believe this is what leads to much of the discontentment that we see in the church and the world.

But one thing I have learned is that this doesn’t even scratch the surface of thankfulness. Thankfulness, like love, is not just an emotional feeling. Many miss the tremendous influence it can have by only experiencing momentary periods of thankfulness, before re-entering the worldly drudgery with its strife, discontentment and continual lust for more.

True thankfulness is more of an action word which manifests itself in the way we live 12 months a year. Most people express the mere momentary emotional reaction when certain events trigger it, such as a kind gesture or a cleverly produced television program. But those are temporary and do not usually, by themselves, produce the deep thankfulness that characterizes a changed life.

We always wonder why; why do I have to struggle with weight issues when others don’t? Why don’t I have the resources that others do? Why don’t I have the family life that others do? Why can’t my walk with God resemble what is popular among my peers? We sometimes lose an appreciation for what we do have because instead of comparing what we have with what God wants us to have we compare with what others have, whether others are the people around us or even something created by media sources.

If we just take a quick glance at some points in the Bible addressing just what God has done for us, an obvious reason for living in a state of constant thankfulness becomes clear…

Romans 1:18-21
18  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
19  For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.
20  For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
21  For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

 

It may seem strange to use a passage of Scripture addressing judgement to highlight thankfulness, but one of the things I take from this is a freedom to choose. Here is God, who created me, the world and everything in it saying I have a choice to follow His will, or, to follow my own if I think I know better, and experience the consequences. I am not a robot. He doesn’t force Himself on me. I am free to receive His love. I am neither worthy, nor qualified to possess this freedom of choice, yet He gave it to me, knowing how bad I and every other human would screw it up.

 

John 3:16-17
16  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
17  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

 

Unfortunately, with that freedom comes consequences in the form of sin. With sin, comes the consequences of death. There is nothing we can do about that. No amount of sorrow or good deeds or days in church can fix what we have chosen. But, in His infinite love, He sent His Son, not to condemn us, but to rescue us, something we were unable to do ourselves. Even though we all have openly turned away from Him, He still loved us.

 

Ephesians 2:8-10
8  For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
9  not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
10  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

 

So not only did He lovingly clean up our mess that our choices created, He has given us a purpose in this life. We don’t have the need to just sit idle while we await God’s plan to unfold. He wants us to be a part of it and we are designed to produce specific results that will show His love to other broken people.

 

I struggled with being thankful for a long time. Because I was handicapped, I struggled to do the simplest tasks; sometimes I still do. This handicap would cause many people to look at me and treat me as a person not able to succeed in life. It has been a tremendous mental challenge and many are the days when I just want to quit or just try to get away with doing the minimum needed to survive that day. Who would care? What difference would it really make?

 

My thankfulness is one of the things that keeps me going. There are people scattered throughout the United States, as well as the world, who know the Gospel of Jesus because God chose to use me to show them. People have been encouraged and inspired by God reveling Himself to them through my victories as well as my struggles. People eat and have a place to live because God has provided me resources and has chosen to use me to bless them. God has taken the time to personally prove Himself worthy even though He had no obligation to whatsoever. In my appreciation I stick with Him, I talk with Him and I listen. When I have those moments that I feel like I can handle life without Him, I consult Him anyways. Because I am thankful, I take the time to figure out and do His work instead of my own. Because I am thankful, I limit my own gratification and direct those resources where He would have them go, so others might be gratified. And because I am thankful, I do my best to make sure God gets the credit. My journey and my real potential is known by God. Every job He gives me, no matter how impossible it may look, will succeed because it is His work. The only thing in my way is, well, me.

 

Because of that I am called to be a better me. I wish I could do better at that, but I fail sometimes. My mouth gets me in trouble when I trust my own judgement. I get down from time to time. I am constantly tired, or sick, or recovering from surgery. But I appreciate what Jesus has done. I know He has taken a life that I have screwed up and used that life to reach other screw-ups. I have peace within my struggles. So I seek forgiveness and I seek to grow. I seek that path that has been created for me. It’s the path that leads home. For that, I owe Him; I owe Him everything, every hour of every day.

 

Next up - #9  Ignorance is not Limited to Everyone Else


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