In a recent physical trial dealing with a herniated disc in my back, I was reminded of this phrase from the Heidelberg Catechism – “that we may be patient in adversity [and] thankful in prosperity” (Lord’s Day 10, Q&A 28). It is rather easy to be thankful in prosperity, but what about being thankful in the midst of trials? That’s where patience comes in – patience means enduring trials and learning from them. It is a challenge for sinful human beings to be thankful in the best of times, let alone in times of affliction. However, if patience is a fruit of affliction, God also grants the grace to reflect on the things we have learned and ought to be thankful for even in the midst of trials. Here are a few things that I’ve learned to be thankful for:
- For a Heavenly Father who knows exactly what I need and how much affliction that I can bear. Through sending affliction He confirms that I am His son and that He is reshaping me into the image of Christ (Heb. 12:1-11). He is more concerned about our relationship with Him and our holiness, than about our usefulness for Him.
- For a glorious Savior who has suffered far more pain than I did with my herniated disc. He suffered that unspeakable pain and excruciating agony to take away my sin (Isa. 53). The fact that He suffered this pain makes our pain pale in comparison and encourages us to press on in the Christian race if we are one of His (Heb. 12:1-2).
- For a patient Holy Spirit who desires with longing to see me walking in the paths of holiness (James 4:5), and who leads me deeper into the experience of my own wretchedness in light of the riches of Christ and the mysteries of the gospel.
- For a loving and tender wife who encourages me to look beyond her to Christ and selflessly took care of me without complaint while simultaneously running our home and taking care of our three little ones.
- For my children who are a bright ray of sunshine in the midst of pain and give me reason to work through the pain and teach them the unsearchable riches of Christ.
- For parents who are ready to help in whatever way possible even though they live far away.
- For the Scriptures that I committed to memory which were brought to mind when I was in so much pain. I learned that one could be in so much pain that reading and meditation can be very difficult. Trust in Jesus and learn the Scriptures when you are young. There might be a time in your life where you are too sick or weak to focus on these things.
- For the pain in my back and leg, which reminds me that I have a glorious resurrection body that awaits which will be free of pain. Healing may be long in coming or it may not come at all in this life, but it will come in glory.
- For a compassionate, praying family and congregation which surrounds the sick and the down and out with a ministry of prayer. This is a taste of life in the body of Christ according to the Word.
- For faithful pastors and friends who called and prayed and ministered of the mercies of Christ. It is different for a pastor to be on the receiving end of soul care when in trial; it certainly gives appreciation for the pastors you have.
- For the fact that is was only a herniated disc and nothing more life-threatening. I deserve far worse.
- For the lesson that our bodies are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).
- For the wide array of means that The Lord has provided for our healing. He doesn’t care just for our soul, but also for our bodies.
- For the ministry opportunities that have come about in the midst of affliction. When I don’t know what to do, the Lord in his wisdom provides “unconventional” ways to minister. When you go through pain yourself, you are able to relate to others in their pain. This also gives new meaning and application to the truth that Jesus is our High Priest who is touched with the feelings of our infirmities (Heb. 4:15)! We can only identify with one another in part, but Jesus does so perfectly.
- For the rest I received during this trial that caused me to look to the eternal rest to come (Heb. 4:9).
- For “the light suffering” which works in us the eternal weight of glory and the unbroken presence of Christ that awaits believers in heaven (2 Cor. 4:17). Worthy is the Lamb!
- For learning that we take so many things for granted, even laying and sitting comfortably and getting up with ease.
These are only a few things that I have learned to be thankful for. I am sure there will be more as time progresses, but what are you thankful for?