She stood with tears dripping down her round, blushed cheeks. Her six-year-old little mind had captured the reality that—wait for it—Mommy could die. It’s a very harsh reality for anyone to come to grips with, but worse when you’re little and you wait for your invincible parent to reassure you that your worst fear is not possible. I pulled my daughter onto my lap and cuddled her, speaking words that often I can barely believe, let alone put into action.
“Baby, there are never accidents with God. Everything that happens to us first passes through Him. Even if Mommy were to die, I would be in Heaven with Jesus and we’d wait for you until you came too.”
“But I need to know, Momma, so I can plan.”
My baby, the planner. Aren’t we all?
“Let’s be thankful for the time we have together and know that the time we have together here is a gift.”
Thankfulness. Why should we be thankful? Here I was trying to teach my daughter to be thankful in the face of potential tragedy, and thankfulness is an action that I myself view cynically. It’s easy to be thankful superficially. When my book order arrives from Amazon, when my hair actually cooperates for a change, and when I reach for the ice cream and there’s actually some left. But thankful when we don’t feel like it?
That’s another story altogether.
Paul wrote in Phillippians 4:11-13 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (ESV)
In any circumstance …
I can do all things …
In essence, Paul practiced contentment by practicing faith that the Lord was completely in control of his circumstances. Nothing was accidental, or unplanned, or in error.
Thankfulness brings contentment, really.
Webster’s says that “contentment is the state of being happy and satisfied”, and “thankfulness is being glad that something has happened or has not happened, that something or someone exists, etc.”
So if Paul could do it why can’t I? And how do I train my own child in the ways of the Apostle when I question all the “bad things” that have happened in my life. The loss of three babies through miscarriage, missing saying goodbye to my Gramma by mere minutes before she passed, enduring the death of my cousin by motorcycle accident, and … your list is as long as mine. The deep hurts, the agonizing pains, the parts of this world that make thankfulness something that doesn’t breed contentment but rather bitterness. Or that nagging, unsettled feeling that you’re waiting for the next shoe to fall and crush you.
We’re moving into the season of thankfulness. Is it all a smokescreen? A façade that isn’t really true as we hide the pains deep inside? Or can we truthfully say we are thankful and content in all circumstances?
It was my moment of truth, as my daughter’s baby-blues drowning in tears, pleaded with me to give her that infinite comfort. Memories sped through me. Especially the one when my husband held me after the loss of our third child. Then he painted the picture of eternity in soft whispers. Of how my baby was in the safest place, and in the presence of Jesus, and would I wish it back to a world of sorrow or would I rejoice that my children would never experience pain?
I knew what I needed to tell my daughter. Eternity. Eternity is why Paul could say he was content, why he was thankful. Eternity is why I could move forward after losing my children. Oh, the sadness, the stabs and the wounds are real, but they’re momentary. Eternity calls each of us with its promise of a place that Jesus has prepared for us. An Eden. A garden of beauty, of contentment, and of peace.
“Baby, these things we fear? We answer that fear with faith. Because Jesus promises to give us hope and a future, and there will never be an accident when He is watching over you. What we think are accidents are just another step to the place we all call ‘Home’.”
They were deep words for a little heart. But she received them. “So I will always have you, Mommy? Even if we’re not together for a little while?”
“Yes. You will always have me. We just may have a moment where we need to wait to see each other.”
A tiny smile. A sniffle. A swipe of her tears, and then a nod. A nod of faith. Which became a little heart of thankfulness that no matter her worry, Jesus watches over her and Jesus takes care of her. In that, she found contentment and rest, and so do I.
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Discuss: Are you grasping to find thankfulness this season? When was the last time you viewed your heartache or trial through a different lens—an eternal lens with eternal purpose? Can you lay your fears at Jesus’ feet and find thankfulness for His all-knowing hand?
Pray: Lord, being thankful through a storm seems insurmountable, and yet we know that you have never lost control. You have parted waters, torn down walls, and defeated the grave. Give us the strength to say ‘I am thankful’ for the work You have yet to do, and for the purpose we cannot see. And in our thankfulness, bring us rest and contentment. We pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen.