Gratefulness Admidst Pain

Have you ever wanted something, and someone gives you a gift, and you think it’s the something you want, but it’s really something else? Well, my High School English teachers would kill me for that sentence, but I think we’ve all been there a time or two, wishing for A but getting B.

I remember one Christmas so profoundly, I can still feel the emotions and remember every aspect of this one moment. I was about 13 years old, and all I wanted in the world was a stereo! Oh, I could go without ANY OTHER Christmas gifts, if only I could get a stereo! To make matters worse, one night, my parents went out, and I was fiddling around on the limited family computer (I think I was playing an early computer game), and I saw a box. This box sat level with my parents’ bed, with a blanket over it, so I couldn’t see. Being me, I didn’t go look, but I KNEW I was getting my stereo!

Christmas morning came, and the presents started being opened, and I got to my big present. And yet, it wasn’t as big as I had thought, but maybe it was a remote (that was the new thing, then! Remote-controlled stereos), or maybe it was a receipt or some adventure to go on to find my stereo. And as I opened that package, my heart sunk into my legs, and I struggled to hold back tears and be grateful; my gift was my Dad’s boom-box (basically, a CD player with speakers and a radio, for those of you who don’t know what a boom-box is). My parents went on to explain how they couldn’t afford a stereo but could give me this. Oh! I knew my parents weren’t rich, so I tried so hard to be grateful, but the tears welled up anyway…

I find that I still struggle with being grateful when I’m given gifts that are not what I wanted. My heart is so set on a thing that anything less or different is hard to be grateful for it. But, I am also working on it! I’m learning to see the heart in the gift that was given. And the same is true of God.

Sometimes, we ask God for something, like a spouse, but He gives us a better car. “A car is not a spouse, God! Don’t you know this?” LOL! Every time I say something like that, I immediately see one of my kids getting upset with me. Here I am telling the Almighty God of the Universe, the One who knows everything, that He doesn’t know the difference between a car and a spouse. But you know what? He knew I needed that car to keep me from being broken down on the road two weeks later. He knew that I needed that vehicle to help my friend move the following month. He knew!

As for the spouse, sometimes God says no or not-now. Truthfully, I don’t understand that! I really don’t! From my analysis, I know that what is truly needed is a spouse! But then I have to admit that I’ve just violated Proverbs 3:5.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.

Proverbs 3:5

Do you see the conflict? I’m judging God’s provision by my limited knowledge. I’m trusting in my own analysis. I’m depending on my “educated” understanding. But, as may be obvious to you, God is bigger than me, better educated than the greatest of scholars, and has an understanding beyond human comprehension. He understands, sees, and knows so much more than I can hope to understand, see, or know.

So, when God provides a car, even though I asked for a spouse, I must submit my heart to His wisdom and healing touch. I need to look at that car, let my tears fall, and say with absolute trust, “Thank you!” My perception of what is best is often inaccurate. He knows what I need, and He will provide it. (As an aside, let me say that this DOES NOT mean one cannot keep asking for a spouse! Jesus tells us to be persistent in our requests until we get a response; so, there is nothing wrong with continuing to ask for A when you get B.) In the midst of my humanity, I need to remember my limitations, and I need to practice gratefulness for what He HAS given, even if I am grateful through my tears.

Ok. I should finish my earlier story. In the midst of my trying to be grateful and working so hard to keep from sobbing, I had missed that my older brother was now standing next to the couch I was sitting on. Furthermore, I missed the fact that he was holding a very big box. After clearing his throat, I looked in his direction and was elated to see a nice, new, shiny stereo for me! I didn’t care how it compared to any other stereo, it was my stereo, and I could finally listen to my music in nice, detailed, equalized sound! Yeah, baby! I had arrived!

When we surrender our lives to Jesus, when we line-up behind Him and walk with Him, following His plans for our lives, we will find He has the perfect gifts for us. Sometimes, they’re not what we want, but they are what we need, and they are ours, our gifts from our Father. And through these gifts, we are better equipped and enabled to serve Him. Nothing is wasted and little is much when God is in it! Consequently, I encourage you, Dear Reader, to press into gratefulness for what He gives you, even if you must weep as you’re grateful; He’ll work on that weeping, and you’ll find more gratefulness. Better yet, you’ll find your life more aligning with His, as you practice this denial of what you think is best and gratefulness for what He has given you.

Godspeed – 1 Corinthians 15:10

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