How much more will your Father in Heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him! — Matthew 7:11
No one wants to spend Thanksgiving Day in the ICU. Especially not a girl who has long claimed it’s her favorite holiday. But last year I did exactly that.
After a difficult, daylong surgery to remove two-thirds of my tongue and the cancer lurking inside, doctors sent me to the intensive care unit to guard against further complications. I appreciated their attention to detail, valued their concern. But spending Thanksgiving in the hospital wasn’t my idea of a festive holiday celebration.
While the rest of America carved up turkeys and served up thick slices of pie, I lay in a hospital room enjoying a delicious IV drip. I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink, not even ice chips. Instead, I listened to the sounds of nurses celebrating the holiday from their station. I smelled hints of a holiday meal being whipped up in the hospital cafeteria. Even with my door closed, I couldn’t escape the constant reminders of all I was missing.
It’s hard for a girl not to feel sorry for herself when faced with such a day. I remember looking out my window at the quiet Denver streets, imagining the memories being made inside so many cozy homes. With each beep of my many lifesaving devices, with each twinge of hunger in my stomach, I felt farther and farther away from the holiday.
Thanksgiving is about gratitude for God’s blessings, for good food, sweet relationships, and laughter. Alone in a hospital room, I enjoyed none of the above.
Captive to my circumstances, I wrestled with questions I couldn’t resolve. What if I’d never gotten sick? What if the doctors had followed a different plan? What if… What if… What if? Those were the questions on which I feasted that Thanksgiving Day. And with each question, I felt more and more sick. Like bars of a cell, the what-if’s penned me in, interfering with my ability to practice gratitude.
At times I wonder how Paul — once named Saul — managed to live without the what-if’s. In all of his New Testament writings, I don’t hear him pining away about what might’ve been. I don’t read any self-loathing for his years of misdirected zeal. I don’t see him griping about his hardships or whining about his pain. I’m sure he had his hard moments. He was human, after all, and had plenty of reasons to play the victim. Still, he didn’t look at his life as a series of unfortunate events.
I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him. — Philippians 3:8-9 NASB
You see, blessedness is more a matter of perspective than a change of circumstance. Paul understood this, after enduring far more pain and persecution than one person should have to endure. This makes his words in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 both hard-earned and profound:
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Paul didn’t catalog his losses, he counted his gains. And his greatest reason for thanksgiving — among many others — was the fact that Jesus had found him, a proud, sinful, self-righteous man. And in spite of his ugly history, God granted him a future glory. It took me a couple of days to pull myself out of my hospital-induced self-pity. It’s not my favorite Thanksgiving memory, but it’s by far the most powerful one.
It was a day when my earthly treasure was taken away. In its place I held nothing but Jesus. A Thanksgiving-worthy gift, indeed.
I still have days when I struggle to celebrate Thanksgiving. It’s not always easy to fix my eyes on what I cannot see. But if the ugliness in my story leads me to the feet of Christ, then my legacy is a beautiful and blessed thing indeed. The story I long to change is the same story that brought me to an enduring knowledge of the God who rescued me. In releasing the vision of what could have been, I’m finally able to see what God has done. And continues to do.
In the letting go of losses, you and I finally see what we’ve gained. We may lose the world, but we’ve gained the maker of it.
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!
“Great is Thy faithfulness!”
“Great is Thy faithfulness!”
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided —
“Great is Thy faithfulness,” Lord, unto me!
~ Thomas Obediah Chisholm, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”
Who Am I?
Most of us find it easy to focus on the temporal, immediate, and tangible. The huge project with a looming deadline. The teen who struggles. The diagnosis that threatens. The mortgage payment past due. It’s understandable. The proximity and urgency of those things make them nearly impossible to ignore. However, Paul claimed that the secret of living blessed is developing eyes that see beyond the obvious. We are recipients of incomparable gifts, not the least of which is the fact that we’ve been chosen and loved by Jesus Himself. This is a blessing that can’t be taken away even in a hospital room on Thanksgiving Day. Take a moment to catalogue your blessings. Although your life may be riddled with losses, ask God to give you eyes to see His great gifts.
Excerpted with permission from I Am by Michele Cushatt, copyright Michele Cushatt.
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What is your story? What are you thankful for? What has happened in your life that has led you to knowing the Lord in a deeper and more profound way that you ever could have without that suffering or difficulty? Let’s thank Him for those blessings today! Come share with us on our blog! ~ Devotionals Daily