Sometimes giving thanks is like brushing our teeth. We’ve gone through the motions so many times we forget the reason for it. True gratitude comes when we encounter true pain. As much I want to experience the gift of being grateful, I’m not so keen on inviting the grief that paves the way. Honestly, I’ve invested a lot of time in avoiding sadness. I love it when happy days are here again. Give me good grades, flexible relatives, bonuses at work, sunny days, perfectly baked cakes, and hair that doesn’t go gray! I put a lot of effort into eliminating trials from my life and the lives of my loved ones. It makes giving thanks easy, right? But when Thanksgiving comes and I reflect on why I’m grateful, I wonder, “Can we really get gratitude without going through pain?”
I was seated in 34E on our recent 12 hour flight from Seattle to Seoul. By the times a chicken entree was served, I had my slippers on, my ear buds in, and I was settled in to watch a movie I missed last spring. The lights went out for quiet time. Life was good on my side of the aisle, when my extra-sensitive nose detected a strange odor.
On the other side of the aisle, they had the Kimchi and Beef Bibimbop for dinner. 34F was sick to her stomach. By the time bi-lingual flight attendants could assist, the passenger’s seat and clothing were soaked. Confusion erupted under the small overhead lights. It became obvious the gagging wasn’t a single event. With little space between us, I entered into the elderly couple’s trial in the 8 hours that followed.
I could offer little help. Starting my own 2 weeks in Asia, my thoughts turned to my bottle of the great American wonder rub: hand sanitizer. I knew it wasn’t enough. I prayed for protection. I tried not to listen or watch. It was ugly. But it was like an accident; I couldn’t help peaking. God Spirit was prompting me, “Open your eyes, beloved. I want to show you something.”
And when I looked, I did see something beautiful. I saw the place where gratitude is born: weakness.
- Ugly made way for beautiful.
- Sickness made way for healing.
- Weakness made way for strength.
An aged husband sat beside his ailing wife. He held her hand, rubbing her back as she fought waves of weakness. When she could no longer hold her bag, he held it. I would never ask for such a flight. I would pray against it. I would use gallons of hand sanitizer. I would not welcome it.
But I would miss the depth of appreciation and gratitude found in weakness. I hate to be the weak one, but it’s the place where gratefulness is fresh. During a lull, my eyes met the eyes of the gentle husband, who answered with a smile and an unspoken knowing in the bowing of his head. He served his beloved all the hours of the flight across the sea, helping her stand when we finally landed. Waves of weakness bring waves of thanks.
Have you faced waves of weakness this year? Me too. I’m thankful our gentle Lord served us with His life, still caring for us, ministering to us in our pain, holding the bag of our hurts, proudly staying near in our ugliness. Are you thankful for your pain?
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Have you experienced weakness since you last sat down for an official “Thanks+giving?” And so you know what it is to be truly grateful. Don’t hide that this week. Happy Thanksgiving, friends, and may we embrace our trials as we invite God’s love in our lives. For as He cares for us, we go to greater depths of gratitude.