Last year I wrote this post about eight months into Joni’s breast cancer journey. As Thanksgiving looms I thought it might be worth a revisit. We approach this holiday with Joni's new classification of "survivor" but I never want to forget the lessons we learned on that difficult path.
Ronald Reagan had a favorite joke that he told so often that the joke itself became a joke with staff members. A CBS News piece related the story as remembered by former Reagan aide Ed Meese. The joke was told about twin boys who were six years old. Worried that the boys had developed extreme personalities -- one was a total pessimist, the other a total optimist -- their parents took them to a psychiatrist.
First the psychiatrist treated the pessimist. Trying to brighten his outlook, the psychiatrist took him to a room piled to the ceiling with brand-new toys. But instead of yelping with delight, the little boy burst into tears. "What's the matter?" the psychiatrist asked, baffled. "Don't you want to play with any of the toys?" "Yes," the little boy bawled, "but if I did I'd only break them."
Next the psychiatrist treated the optimist. Trying to dampen his out look, the psychiatrist took him to a room piled to the ceiling with horse manure. But instead of wrinkling his nose in disgust, the optimist emitted just the yelp of delight the psychiatrist had been hoping to hear from his brother, the pessimist. Then he clambered to the top of the pile, dropped to his knees, and began gleefully digging out scoop after scoop with his bare hands. "What do you think you're doing?" the psychiatrist asked, just as baffled by the optimist as he had been by the pessimist. "With all this manure," the little boy replied, beaming, "there must be a pony in here somewhere!"
"Reagan told the joke so often," Meese said, chuckling, "that it got to be kind of a joke with the rest of us. Whenever something would go wrong, somebody on the staff would be sure to say, "There must be a pony in here somewhere.'"
This may seem like an odd lead in to a Thanksgiving article but regular readers know that odd linkings are part of my brain function. On this Thanksgiving Joni and I could choose to be the pessimist in the joke. This has been a tough year. Joni has been in the middle of her breast cancer treatment for eight very long months. Her prognosis is good but we know it is never certain. So we could choose to wonder why this has happened to us.
Forgive me if this is a bit crude but I can tell that when you start digging through the crap of life on a fallen earth you will often find the pony. We have found so many blessings in the midst of the storm. This is just a partial list of the blessings we are grateful to God for on this special day of Thanksgiving.
- Experiencing the peace that is inexplicable. How can we find peace in the middle of a battle with cancer? It is only through the comfort of the Holy Spirit. Paul talks about this in his letter to the Church at Philippi.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
- The friends who have been there with us throughout this trial.
- The countless “strangers” who are praying for us. Many are praying for Joni because of this blog. Others through prayer lists around the country. What an amazing blessing to realize that people who don’t even know us are praying for us.
- The privilege of glorifying God through this trial. When I first told our Sons about their Mom’s diagnosis I told each of them the same thing. “If our faith in Christ doesn’t work now it is not of much value”. It has worked. And it is of great value.
- The realization that we can get through anything with Christ.
- A changed perspective on life’s little irritants. Joni’s cancer has changed how I view my world. My biggest concern is that I will forget when the treatments end and the tests are good. In the words of the Apostle Paul…God forbid.
- An even deeper appreciation for my bride. Her courage and faith have been inspiring…and humbling.
- Priorities…priorities…priorities. I want my life to count for eternity. Every day is a precious gift and not to be taken for granted.
As you face this Thanksgiving you may be looking at circumstances that may make it hard to be thankful. I understand that it can be hard at times. But I also know the value of continuing to dig through the pile. More often than I would have ever dreamed there is a “pony” in there somewhere. Don’t miss a blessing this Thanksgiving.
We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.
That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.
I pray on this Thanksgiving that you will never give up. And never quit digging for the blessings that are hidden. They are the greatest treasures to find.
Dave Burchett is an Emmy Award winning television sports director, author, and Christian speaker. He is the author of When Bad Christians Happen to Good People and Bring'em Back Alive: A Healing Plan for those Wounded by the Church. You can reply by linking through daveburchett.com.
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