At the time, I was consumed with anger. I just knew if I heard, “Count your blessings,” one more time from some well-meaning person, I would scream. It had been one of the hardest years I had ever lived through in my life, with constant financial set backs, recurring car problems and repair bills, health problems, marital problems, family difficulties, rejections on top of rejections in my writing career...my frustrations had reached the boiling point. On a patience scale, my internal thermometer had long ago topped off into the red. I felt like screaming into this person’s face, “Oh yeah, and exactly WHAT would those blessings be?”
Anger brought shame. I felt like such a failure. If I were half the Christian I proclaimed to be, surely I would not be reacting in such a childish manner. I knew what the Word said about tribulations, that we would have them in this world. I also knew that Jesus said for us to be of good cheer, for He had overcome the world. (John 16:33) I just could not find the cheer. It had gotten lost somewhere in the troubles.
Shame turned into guilt. I felt so guilty, because I had seemingly lost my faith. Under the weight of all the burdens I was carrying, it no longer seemed to be strong enough to sustain me. It seemed the harder I tried to hang onto it, the more elusive it became, literally slipping right through my fingers. In comparing faith, Jesus used the example of a grain of mustard seed. Possessing that much faith could cause a mountain to be moved. (Matthew 17:20) Yet my mountains did not seem to be going anywhere, so my faith must be small indeed.
Lack of faith turned into hopelessness. I truly could not find a reason to go on. Jesus repeatedly told his disciples that if we kept asking, seeking, knocking, that we would receive. (Matt. 7:8, 21:22, Luke 11:9) Yet, I had prayed the same prayer for so long, that I was just weary from repeating it, and I figured He must be weary of hearing it as well. Although I was trying to cling to a verse in Jeremiah, Chapter 29, in which I was assured a future and a hope, it seemed as if all my today’s were just repeats of my yesterday’s, and the future looked bleak indeed.
How then, did the Lord move me from feelings of despair and anger, hopelessness and guilt, into an area of thankfulness? It began with my husband suffering a grand mal seizure. I know that does not sound like anything to be thankful about, and considering the emotional state I had fallen into from previous trials and tribulations, fails to make sense. Yet, that is exactly what it took, for me to experience thankfulness again.
Five years ago, Jerry had suffered a grand mal seizure, and had been under a doctor’s care for the duration. After a battery of tests, they determined the only factor was a seizure he had suffered when he was four years old due to a high fever. No tumors, no misfiring in the brain, no visible problems. After being seizure free for over four years, they began to wean him slowly off his medication, and finally took him off the Dilantin entirely. A little over a year had passed since then, and now suddenly, he suffered another one.
Were we thankful for the seizure itself? Not likely. It left him feeling disoriented for days, confused, and weak. It also leaves him feeling helpless and dependent. When a person has a grand mal seizure, it is state law that they are not allowed to drive a motor vehicle until they have been declared seizure free for one year following the incident. With my son, whom is the only other licensed driver in the house, busy traveling back and forth to college, this left me as the primary driver. This restriction makes it somewhat impossible to lead a "normal" life. How, then, did he and I reach the state of thanking God for this problem?
It is very simple. It refocused our attention. My husband and I had been undergoing some marital problems. The stress, which we had been living under, mainly due to financial difficulties, had begun to intrude upon our relationship. We had begun to snipe at one another instead of praying together. I had become upset with him, because I was dealing with the majority of the financial burden alone, attempting to pay bills and negotiate with our creditors. I did not feel he was taking an active enough role in the day to day reality of it all, and I had fallen into a pattern of nagging. His defense was to withdraw even more. The night before he had the seizure, he had finally gotten angry enough at the whole situation that he declared he felt like giving up. We were fighting in front of the children, and it had escalated to the point where both of us were harboring bitterness and resentment toward each other.
In Romans 8:28, it says “All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” I guess it might sound funny or unrealistic to some that God can use an illness to accomplish good, but that’s what it took in our case. It made us both stop and realize that regardless of the financial strain we had been living through, and the seemingly unanswered prayers, that we did indeed have much to be thankful for. It reawakened our commitment to each other, and our family, and the underlying love that we had recently overlooked. We realized that regardless of what the circumstances looked like that we were currently living through, that faith is the evidence of things not seen, and that if we presented a unified front, we were much stronger. We also realized that God does have a plan, a purpose for everything. In the worst case scenario, if the financial difficulties led to us losing everything we owned, we would still have each other, our family, our love for God, and more importantly, His love for us.
In the face of it all, what could be more important? It's a lot to be thankful for.
You certainly had a lot on your plate. Sometimes it feels as if we are the only ones with problems..everyone else seems to have it so easy. Your article made me realise we all share the fact of trial-some times. I'm glad good came out of it for you...to realise just what was important to you. For you it was your family. It was a lovely direct piece from your true feelings, not holding back.
Mary, I loved your testimony! It was so heartfelt and honest. I'm sure many people will be able to relate to your struggles and be blessed and encouraged by your article! A couple of little notes: Your verb tense changed in these two lines. I think it needs to stay in the present tense : It LEAVES him feeling disoriented for days, confused, and weak. It also LEAVES him ...
Another point is, in that same paragraph, "With my son, WHOM..." I think it should be WHO, although I struggle with those too. I think WHO is the noun/subject and WHOM is the OBJECT, right? At least it sounds right to me. How's that for a professional sounding review! =) God bless you, Mary, and give you and your husband peace and strength in the storms of life. Donna