Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Turning Point: a Grateful Heart


Several weeks ago, the first green shoots of my jonquils peeked out of the ground and whispered that spring was on its way. When the buds began to open, spring (in my mind) had arrived. 

Those first green shoots serve as a kind of "turning point" for me, a sign that winter is on the way out, and spring is sure to follow. 

We have those turning points in life, too. Some years ago, I was going through a particularly hard time. I've written about this before, but the truth is so universal that it bears repeating. I truly did not think I would make it. Financially. Spiritually. In any way. My hope was gone.

A wise friend told me something I've never forgotten. "There will come a moment when everything will turn, and you'll be on your way out of this hard time. You might not recognize it at the time, but, looking back, you'll know." 

She was right. I waited for the "turning point" and nearly despaired in the waiting. One day, I was desperate more than any other day. I didn't know what to do. I didn't know where to turn. I had done what God had said, and I could see no way it was going to work out for me or my family. I was crying, hopeless, and broken. 

That particular day, I was seriously short on funds and had decided to stay in town and wait, rather than drive home and back, while my son was in school. I was trying to save every penny I could. With seven hours to go, I pulled into a parking lot to read my Bible and wait.

The passage was Psalm 50. Perhaps you know that passage. It has the "cattle on a thousand hills" verse. I suggested that the Lord sell some cattle to help me, when I had the strongest sense in my heart that I should "turn the page." It seemed a foolish word from God, mostly because I wanted to stay on the cattle page and argue for a divine cattle sale.

When the "turn the page" impression grew stronger, I finally did just that. What I found shocked me.

"Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and pay your vows to the Most High;
And call upon Me in the day of trouble;
I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me.
Psalm 50:14-15 nasb

It wasn't the "pay your vow" part that gave me trouble. It was the "offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving" part.

A sacrifice of thanksgiving is thanks given when it's hard. When it costs us something. When we don't feel grateful. When we'd rather whine and complain.

That's where I was. I was out of gratitude.

I had an index card in my Bible. I grabbed a pen and listed things for which I could give thanks. I filled the front of the card, then I filled the back. I found a scrap of paper and filled it, too. 

At the end of my thanksgiving, something had changed. I had reached my turning point.

I didn't know it was a turning point, but my heart was lighter than it had been in weeks. My hope was restored.

I reached another turning point not long ago. The recent back injury nearly did me in. I freely admit that I'm a big baby about discomfort, but it was terrible to me. I dragged my leg and struggled for every step. 

A pastor friend saw my struggle and asked a question I didn't want to hear. "Have you thanked God for this back problem?"

Well, no. I hadn't.

I knew better, but once again, I had failed to thank God for what He'd allowed in my life because I didn't feel grateful. 

I'd learned from my previous turning point, though. I began to thank God for allowing my injury, for what He'd taught me through it, for what I hadn't learned yet but soon would, for the strength He would give me to carry on in the midst of my struggle. I thanked Him for the gracious help of friends, for the benefit of tylenol. On and on. 

I thanked Him that my trouble would one day end, because of the hope of heaven, even if my back never improved on this earth. I didn't "feel" that way, but I believed it was a Biblical principle. I was willing to be grateful for it. "If this is my thorn in the flesh, Lord, I thank you for it." 

It was a turning point for me. My fear about the injury evaporated with thanksgiving. My willingness to persevere was strengthened. 

Yes, my back was already improving, but recovery quickened. Hope returned. 

I believe the principle of Sacrificial Thanksgiving is one from which we can all benefit, because it comes with a promise. 

If we offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving, pay our vows to God, and call on Him, He will rescue us and use that rescue to honor Him.

Are you going through a hard time? Does it feel as if all hope is gone? As if you don't know which way to turn? Are you in need of a rescue that honors God? 

Perhaps what you need is a time of Sacrificial Thanksgiving. Grab a pen and paper and make a list of all the things for which you can thank God in your trial. Don't whine. Don't complain about the trial. Thank Him.

After you have thanked Him, then call upon Him for help. 

When you've called on Him, rest in peace, because we serve a God who keeps His promises. Every single time.
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The Friday Night With Friends blog post for this week has arrived in my inbox. Don't miss it.  It's so good. You'll enjoy it! Friday. 6 pm.
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Be sure to check the updated Prayer List 
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