Every four years my husband Rex and I attend CRM’s worldwide conference. As my multiple sclerosis has become more progressive, it’s easy to mark the changes I see since the last world conference.
The last conference took place in Mexico, where sweltering heat and humidity kept me inside, away from the pools and the seashore. Ocean sand and wheelchairs are not compatible, so there would be no sand between my toes this trip. In past conferences some of the richest times of fellowship have been around a pool or at the beach during our free time, and I was feeling the loss.
A verse came to mind from Ecclesiastes—Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?” For it is not wise to ask such questions (Ecc. 7:10). As the effects of MS rob me of mobility, strength, energy and capacity, I am tempted to ask this very question. Maybe you are tempted to ask it too. Life is a series of little deaths, whether you deal with chronic illness or a bad knee, a job loss or a relocation. This question looms large at times of change, transition or loss.
So what is the wise question?
The Lord has helped me reframe my question and it has brought me great freedom in light of continuing losses. My new question is, “How can I express thanksgiving in the face of challenging circumstances?”
Gratitude. Plain and simple. Paul gives us this new posture in I Thessalonians 5:18—Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Gratitude helps me not get stuck in the loss. This practice—and it does take practice—prevents me from building an “altar” around the “old days.”
Thanksgiving motivates me to make peace with my own reality as God teaches me to trust him in my present circumstances.
We worked hard to stay out of the sun during our week in Mexico, but we couldn’t stay out of the flow of God’s blessings as we chose to stay thankful.
We enjoyed deep and meaningful fellowship with friends and ministry partners, new and old—inside. We had every meal in one of the two restaurants with AC, and the restaurant staff “adopted” us, taking over Rex’s care-giving role. He felt lovingly replaced! Finally, the conference culminated with a “Banquet on the Beach,” where white linen-covered tables were set for 600 diners. I got my beach experience as four very strong men carried me in my wheelchair to my designated table. I was in the sand!
I traded grasping for the “good ole days” for gratitude. It was the right choice, the wise question.
“How can I express thanksgiving in the face of challenging circumstances?”
Questions for Reflection:
- How has an “attitude of gratitude” played out for you in light of difficult circumstances?
- Is there a loss, transition or grief you are still trying to turn the corner to thanksgiving? Ask the Lord to help you release it to him. His ways and his timing are perfect. He longs to bless you in surprising ways!
One centuries-old prayer practice that helps many people find God's perspective is the Prayer of Examen, a simple reflection time with God at the close of each day. We've put together a short guide to this contemplative prayer exercise that you can download.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Connie Kennemer and her husband Rex reside in San Diego, where they have served in CRM since 1986. Over the years her roles have included leading worship, establishing a CRM Intercession Team, and collaborating with mental health professionals and the faith community in suicide prevention and support of those who have experienced tragedy.