By Steve Wickham —
March 2004. It was five months to the day when I discovered the way to a transient hope that would stay with me as much as I practiced it. Through it came peace, which quickened me to a joy, that, if I could feel this now, with all I’d lost, there must be something of God in it.
My joy was extant in gratitude. Not that I was ‘happy’. I hated having so much of what I’d come to love taken from me overnight. Gone. Never to return. Oh, living horror.
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. — 2 Corinthians 12:7b-10 (NRSV)
But there I was. What could I do? I couldn’t change my circumstances, and even the apostle Paul was rebuffed by God who wanted to take him to better (2 Corinthians 12:8-10).
You see, God knew. Until we come to gather up all the joy that’s possible even in the mode of grief, we cannot say we have experienced all that God wants to give us.
That sounds harsh I expect. It was hard to type those words. But there is something beyond needing to be comfortable to live content. It honestly inspires me, the strength of patience and perseverance in those who gave up long ago their insisting that God make their situation right.
Now, I do think there are situations in all our lives where we’re ‘not there yet’. I have them. This, of course, according again to Paul, is so that we don’t become conceited (2 Corinthians 12:7).
Even if these words would seem abhorrent as far as them seeming far from possibility, we need to be reminded that hope is what gets us through, and without hoping upon something over the horizon that we believe is possible our situation really is hopeless. Then, we—our joy and our peace—and our ability to be patient, and to endure—begin to die.
Gratitude, therefore, is a key indicator that we’re beginning to live out this eternal principle that the world can never understand.
So, God gives us something with which to procure hope. It is plainly in the concept of impossibility, at least as it’s a concept to be understood in a worldly sense.
But joy will quicken within us so long as we believe it’s possible. Some days, we must admit, it will seem beyond us, however. On such days of rabid weakness, we simply hold the concepts of hope and joy and peace for gratitude aloft, and pray, “Lord, may they be real in my mind at least once today, and may you gift me one experience today. For that at least I will be grateful.”
These words I pray are not selected and arranged and sequenced flippantly, and I do pray that God would forgive me if they cause pain, but it’s to hope that I see that we’re called—whether in loss or in lack, or in plenty or in peace.
Let us hold fast to the possibility of a joy-remitting-gratitude even amid loss. Let us trust God that this is possible and let us search with a tenaciously patient will.
Loss does change us forever. It does. But that change doesn’t need to be for bad.