My friend, Patsy, told me a story about a time during her childhood, when her family lived on a ranch, where her father worked for the owner and took care of the property and animals. Patsy remembered with special fondness how the owner of the property taught her how to work with horses and allowed her to ride the horses as often as she wanted, which she did, often. She recounted how she would take her favorite horse in the evening, and go for long rides, and find a grassy patch in the woods, where she could sit and read and enjoy the beauty of nature and the tranquility of the woods.
The follow-up to my friend's story painted a different picture than the beginning of it, when she told me that the house on the ranch where her family lived didn't have electricity, or even indoor plumbing, and how she would be so embarrassed that she would work hard to make sure her friends never saw her house after dark, hoping that they wouldn't notice that there were no lights.
As Patsy was telling her story, it occurred to both of us at almost the same time...if her house on the ranch had had electricity and indoor plumbing, (and television and maybe even air conditioning) would she now have the beautiful memories of the horse rides and grassy patches in the forest? Would she have spent so much time with the horses, if her favorite show were on t.v.?
I don't know the answer, but i can guess.
We've all heard the cliche, "Every cloud has a silver lining," but it never occurred to me, not really, that there are many silver linings i wouldn't have had without the clouds.
I know that difficulty makes me stronger, but difficulty also brings opportunity for blessings, specific benefits, that we wouldn't have had if everything were going smoothly. I don't mean i'm going to go looking for tragedy, though tragedy brings opportunity for blessing too, but what if when tragedy or difficulty, or simple inconvenience strikes, once i get done grieving or complaining, or just readjusting, what if i started looking for the secret treasures, hidden in my situation?
What if i got thankful?
Corrie ten Boom and her sister, Betsy, were prisoners in a concentration camp in Europe during World War II. They and the other women imprisoned with them were, at one point, housed in a building very badly infested with fleas. Corrie and Betsy had managed to smuggle the pages of a Bible with them into this prison, and while looking for hope in the pages of scripture, came across the instructions of 1 Thessalonians, that we should "give thanks in all circumstances." Against Corrie's protests, Betsy encouraged her sister to thank God for the fleas. I know....sounds crazy to me too. But they did it. They prayed and thanked God for the fleas. What you learn later in the re-telling of this true story, is that because of the horrible infestation of fleas in the sisters' building, none of the Nazi guards wanted to go anywhere near it, and because of that, the women in this building were able to do things that prisoners in the other buildings did not get to do, such as distribute smuggled-in vitamin drops, have Bible studies, encourage each other aloud, all without additional negative responses from the guards. In comparison to the other buildings in their prison camp, the women in this building experienced definite luxuries, because of the fleas. (The Hiding Place, 1971, by Corrie ten Boom).
I think i might be a slow learner, but i might be finally starting to wrap my mind around the truth that hardship, tragedy, inconvenience, always always always, contains something, some opportunity, some benefit, some experience, that will shape me for the better, if i let it.
Today is Thanksgiving Day in the United States. I pray that you have lots of things to thank God for, and if they're hard to think of this year, i pray that you will have the courage to "give thanks in every circumstance" and have the faith to believe that your present circumstance contains a hidden treasure, and even if you don't yet know what it is, to thank God for it anyway.
Happy Thanksgiving! and Happy Giving Thanks!
Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks;
for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18