In 1897, Johnson Oatman penned these lyrics to a long beloved hymn:
When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.
Wouldn’t this week be a great week to focus on counting our blessings and responding to God’s goodness with awe and gratitude?
Tracey and I will be celebrating ten years of marriage this month, and we still regularly reflect on our sense of thanksgiving a decade ago. You see, in November of 2013, we were wading in a pool by the beach, getting a cold beverage. I can’t remember who said it first, but we looked at one another and said, “We are stupid blessed!” We have looked back on that moment with such joy and gladness these ten years, not so much in awe of the setting we were in, but in awe of being so blessed by God to be given this grace upon grace opportunity to share life and ministry together. This was a second chance at love for both of us.
I realize that some who read this may not recognize much to be thankful for in their current circumstances. I would be remiss if I didn’t share that our decade of marriage also introduced us to some heartache and pain. We have shared tears over the loss of loved ones. I suffered a broken leg followed by surgery, while Tracey wrestled regularly with back and nerve pain. And yet, we found contentment and peace in the journey, agreeing with Paul that “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17 NIV).
If you are experiencing a lack of thankfulness this season and are entangled in difficulty, may I along with Jesus, say, “I see you!” You see, Hebrews 4:15 teaches us that Jesus sympathizes with us in our weaknesses. In fact, He stores our tears up in a bottle and even sheds His own over the pain of His loved ones (see John 11:35; Psalm 56:8).
As you face challenges, let me say that I’ve been there and have been helped by the biblical perspective found in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV) where God invites us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Think about it. Our circumstances are orchestrated in alignment with God’s will. These circumstances are sifted through the divine sovereignty of a God that is too wise to make a mistake, too loving to be unkind, and too powerful for His purposes to be thwarted.
It’s no wonder then, that He instructs us to give thanks in it all – for that is also part of God’s will. I don’t have to be thankful for difficult circumstances, but I can be thankful for a God who is faithfully superintending over me and my circumstances. I am not alone; He is not unaware, and deliverance may be a moment away.
I hope that you will count your blessings this week, naming them one by one, and remembering what God has done. He created you and invited you to be His child through the sacrifice of His son, Jesus. He has declared those who are in Christ righteous in His eyes – forgiven with the hope of eternal life and the empowerment for abundant living. I don’t know about you, but that provokes awe and gratitude in me – even more so than a “stupid blessed” honeymoon.
An invitation: Since Tracey and I have shared tears over the loss of loved ones, we’re considering it an honor to be asked to minister to our congregation at our upcoming Service of Remembrance: Blue Christmas. For some, the holidays serve as a painful reminder of those that have gone before us. We anticipate gathering together and finding peace, hope, and perspective for those who wish to remember loved ones during this season. This special Service of Remembrance will occur in our Gracism Chapel in Columbia on Tuesday evening, December 5th at 7 PM. You may register HERE.
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