Sprained Ankles and Thankfulness
- 2004 22 Nov
An annoying bird has taken up residence in our backyard. It squawks loudly and only at night. Did I happen to mention that this is annoying? However, being the intrepid home schoolers that we are, we trooped outside last night, armed with flashlights and our copy of "Birds of Virginia" to see if we could at least identify our noisy neighbor. With my usual grace I discovered a hole the wind had covered with leaves and promptly used it to sprain my ankle.
While hobbling around church explaining my accident, someone remarked that I should be grateful that my ankle wasn't broken. I agreed. I was thankful that the injury wasn't worse. But later I began to question that kind of gratitude.
In 1 Thessalonians, Paul writes that we are to "Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." As I study that verse, it doesn't sound like an "it can always be worse" theology.
First, Paul says to "rejoice always." This is the same joy that he urges in Philippians 4:4 when he says, "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!" This isn't a joy in our circumstances, but a joy rooted in our relationship to Christ that no circumstance can alter or steal. No matter my pain, no matter my trial, I can know that my Lord loves me and would never allow my pain without purpose. Nehemiah 8:10 tells us "Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength." When I am tempted to grieve my circumstances, I am to lean into the joy of my Lord. He will give me the strength to deal with my trials.
Paul's next instruction is to pray without ceasing. How can we ever taste the full sweetness of joy without an attitude of devotion to the Joy Giver? I have been deeply burdened lately with prayer concerns. Good things have been happening in my husband's youth ministry, and I fear what will happen if he and the children he ministers to are not hedged about with prayer. I fear the direction of my country if prayer warriors do not take up their posts. And when I fear, I pray. And when I feel the burdens pressing on me I give them to my Lord and feel my shoulders relaxing and my breathing ease and my heart lighten. And God fills me with joy and peace and the assurance that He is in control and has a purpose and a plan.
And lastly, Paul tells us "in everything give thanks." There really are no ifs, ands, or buts. He tells us in this circumstance, give thanks. I am not to be grateful that it isn't worse. I'm to be grateful for what my circumstance is, not that it isn't what it could have been. In "The Hiding Place" Corrie ten Boom tells of her sister Betsy's insistence on being thankful for the lice they suffered in the concentration camp. Corrie thought this was crazy, but she dutifully gave thanks. It wasn't until much later that she learned that the lice they suffered prevented them from being molested by the camp guards. We cannot see what God sees; we do not know the whole plan. But we can be assured that God loves us and that His plan is perfect. So, we rejoice, and we pray and God gives us the ability to be thankful for our circumstances—as is.
So this is God's will for us. In Christ Jesus He wants us to have deep and abiding joy. He wants us to talk to Him all the time, to be so tuned in to Him that we hear His slightest whisper. He wants us to know Him so well that we trust His plan in every circumstance, no matter how painful or uncomfortable. Not just to trust Him, but to positively delight in the fact that He has a plan for our situation.
Which leads me back to my ankle. Not fun. I don't know the "sprained ankle plan" but I do know a God who is so awesome that He can use a sprained ankle to glorify Himself. And I'm so very thankful that He's decided to use me as a part of that plan, whatever it may be.
Awnali Mills is a busy homeschooling quiliter. She, her youth minister husband, 2 kids and several rulers live in Richmond, VA. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.