In the walking, and the waiting, in the striving and the struggle sometimes heaven seems silent. And the silence can be deafening.
Some days grey clouds hover over me with no words to ease the pain or grief or longings. Prayers rise from bended knees and yet no answers arrive at my door. There’s no miraculous healing or pretty gift bearing just what I need or want. You know, that ‘thing’ that would make life easier, more manageable and more kind.
So my heart is left to keep clinging to what I know is true, though truth is hard to see and answers just don’t rain down. Jesus said “I am the way the TRUTH and the life.” So daily I cling to Him and lean on His every word. I do this as I read the Word, sing the Word, and try to truly hear and obey the Word.
I walked through a difficult season many years ago, and truth is, most days my feet still walk on a similar path today. During that season life felt like it was coming unravelled, and it had left me feeling weary and downhearted.
I was entering an empty nest season (which isn’t bad of course) but nonetheless an adjustment for this mother-heart. I had recently said a final good bye to my dad, and was walking with my mom through the “long good bye” of Alzheimer’s disease. The business that my husband and I had poured over 20 years into was failing. My husband’s health was like a roller coaster ride, twisty and unpredictable. Dealing with his unstable health and the side effects from his medication left him, and me, wondering what the next months, or years, would look like. Also there were the daily challenges this imposed on our family and business.
I remember I would wonder why my prayers didn’t seem to produce the answers I wanted and needed. I wondered why heaven and God seemed so very silent. I’d ask ‘Why?’ with tears pouring out of my eyes. I began to grow weary and discouraged.
Around this time my sister introduced me to a book by Ann Voskamp called One Thousand Gifts. I picked it up, began reading, and started the daily practise of naming and recording His ‘gifts’. In her book Ann writes “And I see it now for what this really is, this dare to write down one thousand things I love. It really is a dare to name all the ways that God loves me. The true Love Dare.” (page 59)
I wondered if it would be too hard in this season of waiting and wrestling, of mourning and meandering. Would I have eyes to truly see the gifts from His hand all around me? Turns out I did.
Over the next days, weeks, months, and yes years, I wrote down at least 3 gifts each day in my journal. I began looking for Him, and for His beauty in the gifts from His hand. Simple things like a good cup of coffee, a bright red cardinal singing a good morning melody to me, or the smile on a grandchild’s face. Small things added up to pages and pages of a thousand gifts to be thankful for.
They were bountiful and beautiful and I was never left empty handed. My eyes noticed, my fingers wrote them down and my heart agreed with them. Gratitude became my attitude.
In the sacrifice of offering daily thanks, even in the hard, He offered His presence and communion. As I began to let go of things I couldn’t control or fix, He filled me up with the joy of knowing His intimate care and love and goodness. Love and care and goodness that had always been there, because He is faithful.
The practice of writing His gifts down, and looking beyond the mess for the miracles of beauty, helped me grow in intimacy with my Abba. Daddy. The One who never lets me down.
When my focus changed, my heart changed. When I practiced the discipline of “giving thanks” and offered the sacrifice of praise, He met me there and lifted me up. I started to see that the hope I was longing for is only found in communion with Him. In leaning on Him and trusting in His goodness.
For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and His faithfulness continues to each generation. – Psalm 100:5
Ann Voscamp writes on her blog: “Gratitude is not only a response to God in good times – it’s ultimately the very will of God in hard times. Gratitude isn’t only a celebration when good things happen. It’s a declaration that God is good no matter what happens.“
Circumstances will always have a way of casting my eyes down, so I will remember to keep my eyes up, postured toward Him. Arms up, hands open, heart surrendered in the trial, the grief, and in the walking and waiting.
As Ann says “Being joyful isn’t what makes you grateful, being grateful is what makes you joyful.”
My joyful heart agrees with hers.
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I be joyful in God my Saviour – Habakkuk 3:18