It is Thanksgiving week as I write this, and this week two things have collided in my mind. I know that sounds painful but the damage had already been done. First, I have been reading through Esther in the Word. From one perspective she had it made. She would have had much to be thankful for as they shared around the dinner table: orphan to queen, poverty to riches, obscurity to status, gifted with a winsome personality and the looks to land her on the cover of any magazine. However, I was reminded that in the midst of great blessing there are often still immense challenges and heartache. She was married to a raunchy, pagan husband. Drama and conspiracy surrounded her life. Ultimately she faced a likelihood of death by execution or death by genocide with no significant hope that there would be something good behind door number three. Gratefulness in the midst of great challenge is a hard thing.
Second, last night Pam and I sat for dinner in the home of one of our pastors and his bride. Have you ever had a moment where you felt that you had entered the presence of the sacred? I felt like I should have taken off my shoes for it was holy ground. I did not feel that I should be sitting at the same table as this couple. They have served the Lord and His people for a long time with much faithfulness and effectiveness. They joyfully overflowed with stories of what the Spirit is currently doing in the lives of people all around them and the trajectory of the church that they love and lead. Grace and gratefulness was the aura of the room. However, I was reminded that in the midst of great blessing there are often still immense challenges and heartache. The wife has cancer. To say it is serious is a vast understatement. It has spread all throughout her body. No medicine can or will rectify the situation. It is completely in the Father’s hands to determine healing now or in glory; to grant days and comfort and strength. Further, their hearts ache for the life journeys and spiritual walks of some that they love the most in life. And yet their countenance and speech overflow with trust and beauty that can only come from a deep, deep current within them that is the Grace-Giver. Gratefulness in the midst of great challenge is a hard thing.
"Gratefulness in the midst of great challenge is a hard thing."
As I reflected on this my own sense of gratefulness turned to the wonderful men and women whom I am privileged to serve with in the Lord’s harvest fields. Ministers and missionaries, ministry spouses, church lay leaders and volunteers, people like that couple I was with last night. You. We all, without exception, have so much to be thankful for. We are adopted children of the King, loved and treasured, chosen to be empowered for His Kingdom work, lavished with all spiritual riches, honored and connected and cherished. However, I am reminded that in the midst of great blessing there are often still immense challenges and heartache. Health is fleeting, crisis nips at your heels, prodigal children leave a hole in your heart, people resist your well-intentioned leadership, and sheep lash out at your care. Gratefulness in the midst of great challenge is a hard thing.
Yet I see such gratefulness and faithful service in you time and time again. As I move around West Virginia and Ohio I often feel that I should “take my shoes off” for this is holy ground. I see Jesus in you. I am so honored and humbled to serve alongside each of you as your grateful heart shines even while you lean fully into the work that the Lord has called you. Gratefulness in the midst of great challenge is a hard thing. But I see it in you. And it lifts me higher in my own will to serve and leaves my heart stamped with the marks of thankfulness. May grace and gratefulness be the aura of this slice of the Kingdom called the Central District.