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Gratitude for Trials
By Rock Church

Written by A Rock Stories Contributor

One man finds a new way forward and its as counterintuitive as can possibly be.

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I am walking differently these days. My shoulders lift a little higher. The full weight of my body seems not to bear down on the earth as did before, as if gravity has eased.

I had lost my job in 2001 after 9/11, and I have been in a mad scramble to make ends meet ever since. In all that time, I have lived on the edge of a cliff, so to speak, with effectively no space between me and losing everything. Spending 10 bucks is an act of faith. Creditors call. It is a lot to carry.

But after 17 years of praying for my circumstances to change, it finally occurred to me that perhaps all the changing that needs to happen might just be in me, somewhere between my head and heart. You see, after all this time of kicking against the financial goads, I have to conclude that it may never get better. If that is so, two things can happen. Either I fight the unwinnable battle and arrive to my final day bruised and bloodied with a heart full of resentment, or I can embrace it…and finally have a life.

This summer at the Rock, Dr. Amen talked about recreating your neural pathways by changing the quality of your thoughts—that your life moves in the direction of your thoughts. Praise God all day long? You are lifted. Grumble and feel like a victim? Live a dark life. 

Then I heard Pastor Miles talk about praising God for the trials in life. My initial reaction was one of aghast—who would do that? But the radical nature of Jesus suddenly came to mind and in an instant, it suddenly felt like a fit. That we weren’t just supposed to pray against the trials, but thanking God for them could be the only way to render them truly helpless to take us down. I have been down for 17 years. How I needed a new perspective.

Bible verses like, “Consider it all joy my brethren when you encounter various trials,” began to appear in my mind one after another and suddenly none of them seemed so much like homespun encouragements found in crocheted letters in a frame, as much as they were serious directives from God to his people—as a means of surviving this harsh world.

And so, that is what I’ve done. I get up in the morning and praise God for the day, but then I praise him for my bleak financial picture, debt, low income and all, and then I do it again, and again, and again—all throughout the day. I sing songs of praise and tell God out loud that I am not worried and that I trust him with my life.

The result has been a strange sense of being carried. It’s hard to put your finger on, but another way of describing it is that I feel more protected or insulated from whatever may happen to me. It brings to mind Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God,” and in particular, verse 7, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

There it is: a protection that I can’t quite explain.

Here is where I think this process will lead. God will either bless me, or I will simply not care if He does or does not, because my praise and gratitude will transform my mind into one that just enjoys Him for Him only—not what He can give, but what He already has given. Either way, I finally feel that I am on the path to safety and my measure of joy, the one Jesus died for and God promised. 

In the meantime, I am enjoying my life more. I feel more aware of my blessings and realize I am surrounded by them. I have found my way forward. I am facing my trials and speaking the words of life: Thank you, God. Praise the Lord.