“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstance; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (I Thessaalonians:16-18).
There have been many sermons preached, hymns sung and books written regarding the above Scripture verses. To be truthful and totally honest, I have a difficult time “rejoicing always.” During those times when life is overwhelming, I am not “thankful” for what is overwhelming me and causing turmoil in my life. However, I am “thankful” for my family and friends who stand by me and help me through the difficult times. I also have a hard time “praying without ceasing” when it seems as though God is not listening to my prayers. During those dry seasons, I am extremely grateful for my family, my church body and my “circle of close friends” who pray on my behalf and take time to visit me and listen to me more than talk at me.
“Give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ for you” is extremely difficult for me to do when my life has been turned up-side-done. Does God want me to be thankful for the awful things happening to me? Does God want me to be thankful for the cancer a friend is battling or other life-threatening diseases family members are dealing with? Does God want me to be thankful for spiritual, emotional and physical problems? Can I be thankful for sickness, tragedies, catastrophes and all that is evil in the world? In my limited understanding, I believe the answer is “NO!” Using my finite brain, I think being joyful about the horrible circumstances in my life or other people’s lives or being thankful for the horrific events happening in the world, sounds rather masochistic. In the Scripture verse “Give thanks in all circumstances” , I believe the key word is “IN”.
I believe the verses “rejoice always” and “pray without ceasing” are noble goals for Christians to work on. However, when someone is overwhelmed with what is happening in his/her life and cannot rejoice or pray, that is the time for brothers and sisters to “encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all” (I Thessalonians 5:14b). I believe this means gently encouraging those who are struggling by pointing out the good that is happening around them and in them without disrespecting their struggles. It also means praying for those who just cannot pray for themselves and not rebuking them for their “lack of faith.” “Give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” does not mean we must to be thankful for the bad circumstances we are struggling with. I believe it means that we should look for the good that we can be thankful for IN the midst of those circumstances.
Many of you might have noticed my last blog post was written on August 3rd and I did not write blog posts during the months of September through much of November. The reason for my absence is that I have been struggling with severe depression again. This came as a total shock. I truly believed God healed me from depression. I knew that other people who suffered from depression need ongoing medical care, but I thought I was an EXCEPTION. I thought that dealing with cerebral palsy all my life was enough “on my plate”. I had been doing so well for three years. I took my meds faithfully. I felt encouraged and useful for the Kingdom as I wrote my blog posts for God’s glory and to help my readers. Everything was going well up to the middle of this August. Suddenly, all my meds stopped working. I was having trouble sleeping, having trouble “moving my bowels”, which caused anxiety and a loss of appetite, just like the first time I struggled with depression. After trying to get help for weeks, I finally was hospitalized for the entire month of September. During my month’s hospital stay, I was given bilateral ECT treatments for my depression, which caused short term memory loss, and treated for additional physical complications.
I remember very little about what happened betwee, mid-August through in September. I do know it was a frightening time. I cannot be thankful for having to deal with severe depression again, as well as more physical limitations. In fact, I was very angry with God and I’m still dealing and coming to terms with God allowing this to happen to me again. The depression came fast and furious and I didn’t know what hit me. Is it a sin to be angry at God? I say “NO.” Instead, I believe it’s being honest. Being honest with God helps me to be honest with myself, so that I may begin to deal with my grief over losing what I worked for all my life – my independance. In dealing with my grief, I can start the journey from thinking I am an EXCEPTION to getting closer to the ACCEPTANCE of my depression coming back and experiencing more physical limitations that most people who are aging have to deal with sooner or later. This journey helps me to be more possitive and do what I need to do to get better and work on the abilities I still have. I believe that being angry with God is much better than believing there is no God.
This Thanksgiving I am so thankful for my sister Jane, her husband Mark and my nephew Luke. They made it possible for me to come home in the beginning of October. Being at home with a loving family makes a BIG difference. I do not feel alone. I am thankful that my family makes it possible for me to go to my various appointments and come home, instead of having to stay at a rehabilitation facility. I have been going to physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and I’m seeing a counselor and “perscriber” of psychiatric drugs. I am thankful for all these people who are helping me to get better. I am thankful that I am getting better and physically stronger. I am also thankful for my sister Sophie who lives in Oregon. Even though she lives so far away, she finds ways to help me.
This Thanksgiving I am thankful for my church family who are praying for me. Even though I do not remember much of what happened during my hospital stay, I have learned that many of my “circle of friends” and my new Pastor came to visit me in the hospital. I am thankful for P&J who came to be with me while my sister Jane was away. Many others sent cards and emails with personal words of encouragement. I have not been able to attend church because the morning time is too complicated right now. I am thankful for friends from church who are coming to visit me. I’ve known these friends for decades who come to listen and to encourage. I am very thankful for them all..
This Thanksgiving I am thankful for all the nurses, doctors, and other hospital staff and volunteers who took care of me during my month-long stay in the hospital. Again, I don’t remember very much, but I remember some of the people who were very kind and caring. My sister Jane and P&J told me how much the hospital staff and volunteers liked me and wanted to help me to get better
(Pupper [right] and Woof [left] belong to Jane and Mark, but they love me too!)
There many other people and puppies I am thankful for, but I need to stop here, except for one other thing. I am very thankful that I was able to write this blog post to my many readers. I am thankful for you all. I wanted to let you know what was happening and why I have not written for several months. Also, I wanted to wish you a VERY HAPPY THANKSGIVING! May we all realize how much we have to be thankful for.