In this season of being thankful, I find myself thinking back over the major transitions that have happened in my own life in the last two years. Since the age of 19, it had been in my heart to travel and share the Gospel, but growing up as a diehard Georgia girl, I always figured that I would call Georgia my home base. However, in the summer of 2016, my life changed dramatically. After a very painful family conflict, I found myself living in the Carolinas, waiting for my house to sell back in Georgia, and wondering what my future held. I could not see an hour into the future, much less a week or a month or a year.
Over the course of the next few months, I faced an intense internal struggle. I greatly desired to live an independent life, yet I was so dependent upon the help of others for pretty much every daily activity. At 15 months of age, I had been diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a neuromuscular condition that was predicted to kill me before the age of three. But God had other plans! So now, in my early 40s, I still have to depend on the help of others because my body is weak, but my spirit and my soul are very strong.
But in those first few months of transition, although surrounded by people who loved me and who had chosen to be a part of my life, I still battled my deepest inner fears. What if these people who had so willingly taken me into their lives changed their minds? What if I became more than they wanted to handle?
As winter passed and spring came, my house sold and I moved into the home of my best friend. Her granddaughter had just moved out into her own apartment, and both of us were single and very involved with ministry. It was a good arrangement for both of us. For over a year, I was able to find a new level of peace and rest. During that time, things that had been hidden came to light in the comfort of a place where I was finally safe to let my vulnerabilities be exposed.
I realized very acutely that it wasn’t the physical disability that had been my biggest challenge. Having a significant physical disability is not what causes trauma and suffering. It is only a visible canvas upon which a picture is painted.
See, trauma and suffering are peculiar things. In and of themselves, they are nothing. It is in our response to them that we see what we need to see.
And during that year of growing and healing, I began to see the value of perspective more than I ever had before. What I chose to focus on would become the reality I’d create. If I chose to allow trauma and suffering to paint the picture of my life, I would be handing over the paintbrush to the results of a fallen world. Instead, I had to re-frame the experiences of my life in order to let the picture become a reflection of the One in whose image I was made.
And what could be the key to the re-framing of my perspective? Gratitude.
Being grateful to the Lord for His blessings instead of amplifying my painful experiences was a game-changer.
I began to see the Lord bring miraculous provision into my life. It was so powerful. My friend, Sandy Renner, says it like this: “Faith moves God’s hand, but gratitude moves His heart.”
When His eyes rest upon us and He sees our response of gratitude to Him for His blessings, He is moved. On the flip side of gratitude is a dangerous reality. Romans 1:21 (NKJV) says: “…although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”
When we do not acknowledge God as God, glorify Him and give thanks, our thinking becomes futile and our hearts begin to lose the Light that His love so freely gives. In other words, gratitude is what helps us think clearly and respond with a healed heart.
So as I continued to grow, that season began to change as seasons always do. Change is necessary to take us to new levels. One level of glory must always yield to the next, but that means we must be pliable in God’s hands. When we remain pliable in a spirit of gratitude, what would have been a traumatic brokenness under our old perspective becomes only a reshaping, and what would have been suffering becomes merely a bend in the road on the great adventure God has planned for us.