Thanking Through It

All of us have heard the expression, “Thinking our way through it.” Usually, this means there is a conundrum to be solved or an obstacle to overcome that requires some mental engineering. How we “get through” a problem or impasse (at least emotionally) is less about mental acuity and more about using a lens of gratitude. Cicero (Roman statesman and philosopher) once said, "Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others." So true. Gratitude is a very wide berth for so many manifest vessels of hope and joy to pass through.

You all have heard me say repeatedly that the only true and authenticating way to live as a disciple of Jesus (like we are the real thing) is by expressing “gratitude for the past, and hope for the future.” The following four Sundays after Easter, we will be sharing a preaching series entitled, “Thanking Thinking Through It: Gratitude as a Way of Life.”  In this series, we will be exploring how life through the lens of gratitude delivers the very best kind of disposition that will help us navigate all of the stormy and rocky terrain of life's experiences.

Gratitude is far more than just excited "cheer" for good things, and good times we have in life. Much more importantly, Gratitude is the corrective measure that keeps us "content" when times are hard, bad, undesirable, and disappointing. Mindfulness of God's greater purpose for us, as we pass through this temporal and broken world, will always lead us into thanksgiving and gratitude, because we are not stuck and sunk. There is a better future awaiting us all. “For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:14).
As I am coming to the point where I have to acknowledge that my ministry is now time-stamped and winding down in just a few short months, I am much more reflective over my whole journey, and more specifically of our time here among you. We all know that life presents us with many difficulties, problems, setbacks, and obstacles. Some people probably feel like they’ve received a PhD in those experiences. But then we pause and say, “Here we are; we are still here; still standing.” My father-in-law used to say, “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you darn tough.” We’d all laugh along with him, and we also knew that he’d been through the wringer more than once on his life journey.

At the end of the day, you are I are empowered to assign meaning to our life experiences. Rarely can we choose what will come our way, or easily and conveniently sidestep trouble or heartache. What we can do, however, is decide what meaning we will assign to those experiences. Will they be our friends or enemies? Will they become mentors for refinement or hinderers paralyzing our spirits? Will we welcome their life lessons and learnings, or will we shun their presence in bitter anger and disdain?

Hosea the prophet was asked by God to speak to wayward Israel about their journey back into wholeness and restoration into the right relationship with God. As it turns out, one of God’s more important “spiritual Advisors” for us is the teacher named “TROUBLE.” Quite honestly, “Trouble” has never been my favorite Teacher. But look what God wants to do with trouble (disappointing and difficult passages) in our lives:

“There [in the wilderness/wastelands of life] I will give her back her vineyards and will make the Valley of Achor [Hebrew for “Trouble”] a door of hope. There she will respond as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt” (Hosea 2:15 NIV). Trouble goes by another name in the Kingdom of God: “Refinement!” In this teacher’s class, we must stay enrolled, participate, and learn deeply.

I am not saying that Oak Harbor FUMC has been “trouble” for me. I am saying that earthly life among beautiful and broken people (like myself) has been enormously challenging, beneficial, frustrating, rewarding, and profoundly sacred. This life we live is an amazing gift to us. The more we express gratitude, the longer we live and the more emotionally healthy we will be. This is the disposition I choose to travel with as I end my ministry and begin a new chapter in my life!

Grateful for the Past, and Hopeful for the future!

Pastor David 😊

No Comments





no categories


no tags