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Grace in the Dark Times

Rev. Marie’s thoughts are at the end:
Heavenly Father, in the busyness of my day, I sometimes forget to stop and thank You for all that is good in my life. My blessings are many and my heart is filled with gratefulness and gratitude for the gift of living, for the ability to love and be loved, for the opportunity to see the everyday wonders of creation, for a mind that thinks and a body that feels. I thank you, too, for those things in my life that are less than I would hope them to be. Things that seem challenging, unfair, or difficult. When my heart feels stretched and empty, and pools of tears form in my weary eyes, still I rejoice that you are as near to me as my next breath, and in the midst of life’s turbulence, I thank you for your unending faithfulness. In the silence of my soul, I thank you most of all for your unconditional and eternal love. I pray all of this in the sweet name of Jesus. Amen.

‘So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!’ 2 Corinthians 5:17 
Heavenly Father, open the eyes of my heart so that I may truly see all of the abounding love, faithfulness, mercy and favour that you have so freely bestowed upon me. Lord, help me walk with ever increasing gratitude in my heart. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Rev Marie’s thoughts-
“I thank you, too, for those things in my life that are less than I would hope them to be.”
Gratitude and love have so much in common.  Perhaps, in fact, they are two sides of the same coin. Both involve our emotions, and more than our emotions.

We have been given bodies that feel - physical reminders to be thankful. When we see someone we love dearly, when we hear a voice, feel a touch, our hearts can well with emotion and our first response may be an overwhelming sense of gratitude.  What a wondrous gifts these moments are.  Take a couple of minutes now and recall some such moments.

Tomorrow, Rob and I will celebrate our 44th anniversary.  It is easy for me to remember that day when I paused at the end of the aisle in my childhood church and saw his face so full of love and hope and sweetness.  It is easy to remember the birth of my children, the first time I held a grandchild and heard the words “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh” echoing in my heart. It is easy to be thankful for the day I came to Christ Church. Just writing these words evokes a tightness in my chest. I can feel this profound sense of blessing in the very bones of my body. How natural it is to lift our hearts to God in such moments. The recalling of them is sweet, and we need to pause often to do so. Journaling helps us evoke these moments when the remembering is hard.

Yet, there are those other moments and days and sometimes years as well.  There are those times when love/gratitude is not an emotion, but a conscious way of being. There are times when gratitude is a decision and times when it is not just “a” decision but a series of moments. With white knuckles and shaking knees, we determine to keep on being thankful, keep on being loving despite our circumstances. We may not be grateful for the circumstance, but there is always something within it for which we can give thanks.

This is gratitude and love in action.  This is grace-love.  We cannot generate the emotion, although sometimes God grants us that at the most unexpected times.  We cannot deny the circumstances “that are less than I would hope them to be” and pretend that all is well when fear stalks our nights and tears well up.

What we can do is first is to speak what we are truly feeling to God in all the rawness of our humanity. We needn’t be afraid to do this for God knows our hearts before we speak.

And then, we choose to remember.  The psalmists do this so well.  They wrestle with God and their circumstances, but then they bring to mind how God has provided in the past.  They remind themselves, and us, of God’s love and power and our history together with him.  Then they say “Yet will I hope”, or “yet will I give thanks”.  They make a conscious decision to look for evidence of God’s action in their lives, for kindnesses given them, and to be thankful and hopeful.

They, and we, may not be able to thank God for the situation but there will be slivers of light in the darkness. There will be unexpected kindnesses, surprising moments of humour,  or provisions we could not have predicted will appear. We will find ourselves surviving the very thing about which we previously said “I could handle anything but . . .”

It can be tough to do this alone.  Thanks be to God, we don’t have to.  God has made us to be part of the body of Christ and when one part of the body suffers, the rest of the body is to feel this and  respond.  When our faith falters, how wonderful to know we can borrow the faith of our friends for a bit.  How good to know that when the words of prayer die on our lips, and doors to heaven seem closed and locked tight, we can simply BE and let others pray for us and hold us up.

A life of gratitude in action does not just happen.  Our emotions of love and thankfulness will come and go.  But we are not ruled by those emotions or our circumstances. We are “in Christ” and in Christ, we are new people who can see our world with new eyes, the eyes of grace.  We are people who can choose to look at life with the eyes of faith and hope.  We are people who can choose to be vulnerable and share our needs and pain with another so they can bless us with their prayer and support. We are people with a history of our own walk with God, and a history of the stories of Scriptures and the saints that are our stories, given for our encouragement.

We are people, who in gratitude for God’s unimaginable grace to us, can bow in worship, wonder and praise.  And having done so, we are people who can then rise and choose to share another’s burden, to be “Christ with skin on” to another, to “prolong the Incarnation” in God’s world.  We can be those who bring hope.  And as we do, the chain of love/gratitude grows.

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