I stopped him as he went out the door.
I saw on Facebook that he is graduating with his Masters. He’s in his mid-thirties. It’s his second full degree. He was a doctor in his home country. He came here and had to start over. He lost a lot in the process. But not his faith, or his immediate family.
He fell in love with Jesus when he lived in his former homeland. That was a crime. When he arrived in the U.S., he prayed for two things. One, to start fresh and finish a second degree.
Two, that his wife would become a believer. She was disillusioned by the view of religion she received in her home country, declaring that she was now an atheist.
As we talked, he spilled over with gratitude.
I don’t know if it’s possible for a mere human’s face to shine with glory, but thankfulness radiated.
He told me that his professors said there were too many obstacles between him and a second degree. Yet in a couple of weeks he’ll walk the stage. He excelled in his studies.
More importantly, his wife is a new believer. She worships all day long, he said. She also radiates joy; I know that to be true, because I’ve talked with her.
If we were to look at his story, we might wonder about this joy he exudes.
It would be easy to say that faith had failed him.
ISIS is a stronghold near his home country. They constantly push to expand their borders. When my friend asks for prayer, it’s that his father’s faith will shine if death knocks at his door. It’s for friends and neighbors that are suffering, dying, and afraid because of their faith and the presence of a radical, violent extremist group.
When he arrived in the U.S., his problems didn’t go away.
Can you imagine working for 8 to 10 years for a doctorate degree and establishing a practice, only to start over?
Can you imagine what it feels like when some see you as a danger because of your ethnicity?
Can you imagine praying for years that your spouse will share your faith, unsure of when that might happen?
Can you imagine spilling over with gratitude, even in all of this, because of Jesus?
This week, we are intentionally changing the conversation. Today we are changing the conversation about our faith.
Faith isn’t tied to what God has done for us lately, or even what we are facing.
Faith means that he saved us, rescued us, gave his life for us. It means that he walks with us. It means that the Holy Spirit lives within us, and we are blessed far beyond what we even understand.The goodness of God is not shaped by our circumstances, but we are shaped by the goodness of God as he walks through circumstances with us. #ComeWithMe Click To Tweet
It means that we are promised eternity with Christ. We are identified through Christ.
The goodness of God isn’t shaped by our circumstances, but we are shaped by the goodness of God as he walks through circumstances with us.
When we start to live a life of thank you in our faith we become noticers of the good, because Jesus is good.
I can’t totally relate to my friend’s struggles. I’ve not suffered persecution, not the type he’s talking about. ISIS is not moving toward my family. I’m not judged by my ethnicity, though I have friends who are. My spouse has always loved Jesus.
Yet I’ve experienced cancer — twice. Once for me. Once for my sweet guy. I’ve stood by my son’s broken body the day he was critically injured by a drunk driver. I’ve wrestled with medical bills piled high too many years to count. I know what it is to be rejected by a biological father that should have treasured all of his children. I know what it is to see a business fail, though we placed our heart and soul in it. Though we worked hours and hours for years, placing every dime we had in it. I know what it is to feel sad or uncertain.
Paul once described his battle:
Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked. I spent a night and a day in the open sea. In my frequent journeys, I have been in danger from rivers and from bandits, in danger from my countrymen and from the Gentiles, in danger in the city and in the country, in danger on the sea and among false brothers, . . . (2 Corinthians 11:24-26)
That is why, for the sake of Christ, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10)
Paul’s story is one of hardship, except for the fact that intentional gratitude led him to delight in his story. Not in the hard parts, but in the truth that he had somewhere to turn. That in his weakness, he was strong due to his utter dependence upon Christ.
All week long we are focusing on changing the conversation as we live a faith that says thank you.
How does that work? Notice that Paul didn’t shy away from talking about the hard parts. He simply added the good in.Faith does not equal an easy life. Faith equals a full and abundant life that has nothing to do with our circumstances. #ComeWithMe Click To Tweet
And that becomes faith that says thank you.
Yes, I’m struggling in this area but I have the freedom to be honest about that. I will be grateful for who God is in the midst of this battle.
Lord, I almost forgot that my faith isn’t offered so that I might live an easy life, but that I would have life to the full. A life of intimacy with you. A life marked as a daughter of God. A life of walking with you, wherever you lead. Thank you for that.
Adding the good in changes the trajectory of our faith.
Like my friend, and like the apostle Paul, it leads to untapped joy just waiting to be discovered because of our faith.
Day #7 of Living a Life of Thank You
Q: Paul describes the hard places in his life. Share yours. Don’t be afraid to be honest about it.
Q: Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:10, “For when I am weak, I am strong.” What does that mean to you personally?
- On page 131 of Come With Me, it reads: Gratitude is one of the easiest and most profound ways to give. That’s why we verbalize the blessings, not just on a busy day when we are juggling and nothing is going right, but when the stakes are higher. Saying the words out loud are a kiss on Jesus’ cheek.
- Will you do that right now? Will you stop and thank God for rescuing you? For redeeming you. Don’t tie it in to your current circumstances, or what you hope he’ll do, but for what he’s already done for you.