I’m listening to her talk as we all work out this morning, these good women from various church backgrounds, except that I happen to know her faith is a personal one. “I told God that whatever He decides is fine with me,” she says quietly. “I know He will do what’s best.” The others shake their heads in sympathy; I slant a smile for her courage, small offering to a wife nursing a second husband through cancer. She looks tired today, but she is here to exercise. The feet keep moving and voices intermingle with the upbeat music, and she is speaking her list of thanksgiving: an air conditioner in the apartment, a good breakfast, a daughter coming to visit for the holiday…
It seems hard to me that God would ask her to go through this loss again– hasn’t she suffered enough? Learned enough? The others are still talking, her praises still threading through, and when she says she will stay and take care of him herself, whatever it takes, I think maybe this isn’t about her learning or growing anything. Maybe it’s about her giving what she has already learned– blessing two men with her faithful love and willing service, sharing her faith and courage with these watching friends. And she is still offering up her reasons to praise God, all her reasons to hope and keep on going because He is with her: some days are almost pain-free, a new pill to help with nausea, God hears our prayers…
My heart can’t help but add to her list of reasons, because if she can praise where she is, how can the rest of us not? …strawberry sundaes, a night of rest, pink and purple flowers spilling out of a big pot, fireworks, coffee in the morning air, school loans paid off, meaningful work to do… This remembering is like breathing for our souls– drawing in acknowledgement of the Giver and pouring out thanksgiving– a litany of everyday praise that battles against depression and worry and fear. This choice to give thanks is a kind of spiritual discipline, the exercise that moves our hearts close to the Father in childlike trust, our minds to bow before the Creator. It is grace you can learn to see in the desert places: the sun and rain that fall on everyone, and daily bread. “The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning; It’s time to sing Your song again. Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me, Let me be singing when the evening comes….” (Matt Redman)
When I stop to stretch, change clothes and head out for the day, she waves goodbye from out on the floor, and I think how she shines without even knowing it, and how praise transfigures the most difficult things. And how we could spend our whole lives and not run out of reasons to give thanks.
“Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits…. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed– he remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:2, 10-14)
“You’re rich in love, and You’re slow to anger,
Your name is great, and Your heart is kind;
For all Your goodness I will keep on singing,
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find.
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
O my soul;
Worship His holy name.
Sing like never before,
O my soul;
I’ll worship Your holy name”
(10,000 Reasons, Matt Redman)