Tough Stuff

Though I may be hard pressed to find last minute Thanksgiving decorations (apparently the stores have moved onto Christmas), the calendar does beckon me to Thanksgiving. All I wanted was little leaf stickers to decorate my Thanksgiving notes...never to be found. I digress.
The writer in me wanted to share something really inspirational about gratitude. Thankfulness. Something thought-provoking. But I'm afraid I've come on the side of Debbie Downer or Negative Nellie.
What I find more thought-provocing these days, most profound is the choice to be grateful for the obstacles in life. The tough stuff. The things I've said before that I'd really just like to forget are happening or have happened in my life. I'm not suggesting that it's great to be stranded on the side of the road with an overheated car, to be in a tail-spin with your husband or be terminated from your job. I'm just wondering, if we put on aerial-view glasses, should we welcome these difficult circumstances because they give opportunities faith to grow?
I woke in the middle of the night with heavy feelings of bitterness. Why at three in the morning did the Holy Spirit see fit to convict me of bitterness toward someone? Because I had to deal with it, that's why. After confessing and pleading with God to change my bitterness into compassion, empathy and prayer, I'm realizing this isn't likely a one-time confession. This is like a wound that needs more consistent dressing changes. Likely for some time, I'll be confessing the bitterness that's emerged (again), thanking God for forgiveness (again) and asking Him to replace those feelings. Ahh, this will be a long road. Shouldn't I be thankful for the long road? Thankful for the opportunity to be right in my relationship with not only this person, but with God?
Though this will be a longer road than I'd like, "the best things are always achieved by the most difficult paths," (Streams in the Desert, pg.429). Don't I want more compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and love, to bear with others and forgive as Christ forgave me (Colossians 3:12-14)? If this is the circumstance I find myself in to practice and learn these virtues, then why wouldn't I choose to say, thanks for conflict?
This Thanksgiving, go deeper than thanking God for family, a home, health... Yes, these are all great gifts from a generous heavenly Father! And will you also choose to thank Him for the opportunities to grow in character and virtue? Will you choose to thank Him for the tough stuff?

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