Under the Circumstances

“Under the circumstances”. Politicians used it as the end-all excuse for their shortcomings while teachers use it as the be-all reason as to why you’re passing the class.

My pastor tells a story of two friends. The two men had been friends for a long time, served in the War together, lived in the same city for many years after that, married two ladies who had been best friends for most of their lives. As it happens in life, things change, people have families and they start growing apart. After many years, the two men run in to each other by sheer chance at a departure gate at an airport. The two men see in each other from a distance and they run toward each other and embrace and cry. The embrace comes to a slow end, and one man asks the other, “So John, what’s going on; how have you been”? The man answers and says: “well, Bill, under the circumstances…”. The first man interrupts abruptly and says, “Wait, wait, wait. John? What are you doing under the circumstances? You’re supposed to be above the circumstances!”

With that in mind, I pray you enjoy the following poem.

_..But God… – by Antonio Rullo

Where to begin….the rubble or our sins?

It is the third week of quarantine, I think. I say “I think” because all of the days have blurred into one. Thankfully, no one in our household has the Coronavirus. We wake up, do school work, eat, exercise, eat, repeat. Meanwhile, Facebook and Twitter ask whether this whole Coronavirus situation is some kind of punishment from God because of our sin (plural). My question is: where to begin? the rubble or our sins?

Where to begin: our sins

I’m reminded of the song Pompeii by Bastille. The lyrics famously read, “where do we begin: the rubble of our sins”? I guess it’s a reasonable question to ask, but I doubt it’s a question for the Believer. As Believers we are not counted among the “judged”, we are counted among the redeemed.

As Christians we are steadfast in the belief that “all things work together for good for those who fear Him and are called according to His Purpose”. Furthermore, the Apostle Paul reassures us that “to live is Christ, and to die is gain”. So, whether we live through it or at some point succumb to it, we as Christians find ourselves in a Win-Win situation.

Now, I know that it’s trendy, at times, to take advantage of opportunities such as the one we’re in to tell people that this is all because of their sin. Sometimes many brethren are hoping to scare them into the Kingdom: as I’m sure many of us can attest to, it wasn’t fear that led us to Christ but conviction from the Holy Spirit. Fear, as we can attest from recent events, does not produce acolytes; it only produces submission and, over time, rebellion. In fact, I don’t remember Jesus scaring anyone into the Kingdom…not even those who had good reason to fear: Pharisees, Scribes, prostitutes, thieves, Judas Iscariot and so many others.

Where to begin: the rubble

I can still remember the weeks and months after the 9/11 attacks: churches, mosques and synagogues were bursting at the seams full of people that were literally running to God after the satanic events of those days. Here is the facts: the life of every human being is underpinned by one constant and one constant only: the search for meaning.  Most people are dead to their innate need for a connection to their Creator. Most of their lives are spent in the mundane and they try their hardest to keep life simple and mundane. We can see this from their wholesale avoidance of spiritual topics, discussion of sin, judging their own or the sin of others, including their refusal of life insurance: life insurance reminds them of one thing and one thing only: death.

When the walls fell

As the months passed, and the months turned to years, church attendance settled to its historic numbers. The committed stayed and the comical returned to their standard operating procedures. Of course, some had true life-changing experiences with the Lord Jesus Christ and remained in the flock but the vast majority were just looking for shelter for their heads like ostriches: their bodies fully in the secular and their heads in the churches just for the time being, waiting for the “all clear” sign to go back to their regularly scheduled programming.

Huff, and puff, and blow your house down

What am I saying? Well, just like the song, some will chose to begin with the rubble and others will address the sin. But, as Christians, it is not our place to scare them into the Kingdom but to love them into the Kingdom of God. Telling people that #Coronavirus is a judgement from God is a half-truth. These half-truths will not hold up under scrutiny. Ultimately, people remain broken disillusioned by scriptural checks Christians wrote that God never had intention of funding. We know that God’s judgement will come, and may be here sooner than we think, but His judgement will not be a trickling but a total overwhelming of humanity; it will not be because of homosexuality or abortion only, but for both and for much more.

The City that we love

Finally, when God comes to settle accounts, Scripture teaches us, it won’t be with just a 2% mortality rate. The death toll in the billions. This is not because He’s sadistic. Rather, it is because He is Just. I write to Christians that know this to be true. Calamities is not God telling us to preach fire and brimstone (John 3:17). We need to preach forgiveness and Sonship through our Lord Jesus Christ. Why else do we tell new believers to start reading the Bible with the Gospel of John and not Lamentations? We want to show them the Love of God through Jesus not what awaits the unbelievers in a lost eternity! Where to begin? Let us begin with our sins.

Again, God is not a God of calamity (2 Peter 3:9). He does not want death not does He delight in suffering. However, the devil is a big fan and a proponent of both. Brothers, sisters, we preach Christ and Christ crucified; we preach the Hope of Glory not the despair of the second death; we preach Life and life more abundant! In Jesus’ name, Amen!

The Scandal of Grace

Long ago and far away

Growing up, I was what many people would consider very fortunate. Now this is not because we were rich or famous or both. In fact, our lives were very normal: a nuclear family, the youngest of five siblings, surrounded by dozens of cousins, uncles, aunts, and grandparents; all encompassed in a small warm little town in southern Italy. Even as a little boy I could feel that there was something in the air, it was as though time had stood still. No matter where I went, whether alone or with friends, everyone knew who we were. They knew our names, who our parents were and could literally quote the degrees of separation between themselves and someone in our family. Life was simple, predictable, enjoyable. Scandal was unheard of and Grace was secretly abundant. 

No respecter of persons

My family wasn’t very religious: we knew God existed, that Jesus was also God, that He was born on Christmas Day, died on Good Friday and resurrected on Easter Sunday. We showed reverence where and when it was due but for the most part, life moved on without much consideration for the things of God. Now this didn’t mean that we were blasphemers or that we took the name of God in vain, on the contrary: we were always taught of the Goodness of God and how He loved us but it was never to the point of a personal relationship with Him.

Grace of God as background

Even though God wasn’t the central figure of life, much of life played out within the realm of a healthy fear for God and his Commandments. As a young boy, I didn’t know what domestic violence was. I had never heard the word “divorce”. Even police presence at our house was limited to the captain coming to say hello to my parents. The would come for friendly advice of a personal nature or simply to chat a bit about soccer or politics. This was not just my reality but the reality of everyone I knew. We had what I later learned would be described as a “charmed life”. No one I knew struggled with drugs or alcoholism or sloth or the stain of a bad reputation of any kind. 

Grace masquerading as a charmed life

Thinking back, all of my memories of interactions with adults, whether blood relation or not, was a positive one. I don’t have any recollections of adults calling me disparaging names, being belittled, or ever being hit out of anger; never went to school without clean clothes on, without being well-groomed and all my homework done and checked by at least one adult. In fact, some of my most vivid childhood memories include my uncle bringing me to the town square to show off to his friends how quickly I could do mental math. They would all cheer and clap and smile and I would inevitably end up with ice cream paid by whichever gentlemen had posed the math problem.

From this young age, I learned to trust and respect others and had come to expect a solar disposition from people, even strangers. Unbeknownst to me, God’s scandal Grace permeated every angle of my life, so much so that I thought that everyone’s home life was the same as mine. I couldn’t imagine anything else. On top of that, I wasn’t even aware that all of this was because of Grace; I thought everyone lived this way. Concepts such as racism, divorce, domestic violence, alcoholism, drug abuse, or premarital pregnancies weren’t even words that I knew as a child. Life was good.

Heaven as it is on Earth

It’s because of this that I can recall that even at a young age I didn’t fear death: I thought that I would simply die and go to Heaven and everything would be exactly how I had left it back on Earth. Peaceful, loving, caring and gracious. Warm long summer days and crisp, clear summer nights. The days were filled with play, cold drinks and moms chasing us down forcing us to eat. The nights were filled with the sounds of neighbors sitting outside talking and laughing until the early hours of the morning while young men driving by on the motorcycles hoping to catch a glimpse of their sweetheart casually serving cold drinks to the gatherings in the streets. I never questioned any of it, I couldn’t imagine anyone living a reality different than mine: I knew life was good, I just thought everyone’s life was good!

How the other half lives

It wasn’t until much later, in high school that I caught my first glimpse of an alternate reality: I learned that people had complicated, often painful and stress-filled lives haunted with want and lack and struggles of every kind. It was then that I started to realize that the life I took for granted and assumed as the status quo for everyone was anything but ordinary, it was in fact very rare and very special. Friends and acquaintances I had made over the years had a myriad of differing life experiences. Some lived with one parent, some lived with grandparents. Still others some lived alone. Some were abused, still others were neglected and rejected. From broken homes to foster homes and every variation in between, I saw just how special a normal life truly was. 

Uncommon Grace?

I questioned this reality that, apparently, was very special: a gift. I wondered if it was because we were special: was it something about us that made us special. Slowly I realized that people are, for the most part, all the same and the only “moving parts” are things that they cannot control: their birth and their initial circumstances. The old adage came to mind “you can pick your friends but not your family”. But if I can’t pick my family, Someone must have! The only reason why I wasn’t born into lack and want and abuse was by sheer Grace! Again and again Grace proved itself to be scandalous. I could’ve just as easily been born in another time and place where my reality could have been a hell on Earth scenario rather than the one I had which I could only refer to as “Heaven’s Waiting Room”. 

The randomness of Grace

In my  mind I accepted this Truth, thankfully so, and moved on with life. I accepted, in my own teenage way, that, by God’s Sovereign Will, my life was good and it could’ve just as easily not been so. This understanding did give me more empathy for my fellow man, but nothing that moved me to tears or to action, it simply gave me a sense of pity for them: I understood that their decisions were the result of complicated factors and that they didn’t know any better. This gave me a false and unwarranted sense of superiority: I pitied them like you would a child throwing a tantrum in a mall or someone arguing and cursing in full view of their young children. I knew it was random “luck”, God’s Sovereignty, and nothing that I did on my own, and yet, I did not learn the right lesson and it had catastrophic effects on my self-image.

Humanism interpreting Grace

I reasoned that all of this was partially possible because of factors that were unique to us: how our heritage and geography met with history: Etruscans, Greeks, Romans, and Byzantines all called our little corner of the world “home”. Pythagoras derived his formulas literally a few miles from our town; Crassus defeated Spartacus in the fluvial flood plains in the valley below my town: this sense of pride and history, I realized, permeated every single aspect of our lives. Everything was very structured. Hierarchical, and clan-like. Our sense of who we are came, also, from a knowledge of who we had been. In fact, everyone there could be described as an “old soul”. Children were wise beyond their years. Our elders had millenary memories of old feuds and sad stories of dead kings. It made us very wise but, in a way, very arrogant. 

This is a scandal but it is not Grace

I was not immune to any of this by any stretch of the imagination: I suddenly “knew” who I was: we were civilization. Where I come from we have a saying: “La Storia siamo Noi!” which translates loosely to: “we are history!”. With very little evidence to the contrary, from what I could see, this sense of pride rose in me and became arrogance. But, through it all, His eyes were still on me. It was then, that He started sending His servants my way: humble men and women with a true reverence and love for God to point me in the right direction. I paid them little mind: I was sure of myself, self-assured that they were wrong and that I had no need for their philosophy. 

Here comes the boom

But during a winter night after yet another move across the Atlantic to the United State that it happened. I found myself alone, separated from what made me feel safe, again forced to make new friends and rebuild an identity and find a way to fit in, that it finally happened to me. After struggling for weeks and months telling myself that it’ll be alright, that I finally broke, and asked for help.

I was sleeping on yet another foldable cot pushed up against a couch so as to make it a bit bigger. In yet another small and cramped apartment. That’s when it finally happened. Having lost connections to what I thought was important, to what gave me purpose and meaning and direction, it finally happened. Looking for sleep that wouldn’t come and wrestling with thoughts that wouldn’t leave. I cried out in my mind to this far away God. I had learned of Him as a boy,  heard about from these zealots and discounted as an unnecessary complication.

Who are You, Lord?

I pleaded to this God that I didn’t even know was real to prove Himself to me. I dared and begged and pleaded with Him to give me rest in mind and body. Struggling with myself, I asked Him to keep me in my bed and to keep my mind from doing what it wanted to do to my body. I cried out from my soul without making a sound. It was as if someone that had taken my next breath after a bullet impact to the chest. I pleaded with God. “Jesus, give me rest!”. If He would only take me out of this misery, keep me from committing the unthinkable, and restore me to my former self, I promised that I would serve Him for the rest of my life! Enter the scandal of His Grace.

I am Jesus.

In an instant, a deep and restful sleep washed over me. Like a warm wave over dry feet on a Mediterranean beach. It was the most restful sleep I had ever experienced. And since. The next morning I woke up refreshed. With a smile on my face I went about life as if nothing had ever happened. I could recall the thoughts and the pain but none of it bothered me; I was suddenly floating above it all. My mind was restored. My demeanor returned to the self I recognized and all the pain was gone.

The Author of scandalous Grace

The God I had only heard of in passing and had learned stories, almost like fairy tales, had suddenly become not just real but very personal. This same God that had provided for me and sheltered me from evils. He had bestowed on me abundant levels of unmerited favor. Not just my material needs. He had now done the unimaginable: He saved my life and, in doing so, saved my soul!

That no one should boast

Despite all the benefits of a stable home-life and caring friends. In spite loving neighbors and teachers. Despite being sheltered and kept from every evil. I realized that day that I would still have ended up in Hell. Had it not been for my encounter with Jesus. It fell on me like a blanket from Above. Hell is not a place filled with depraved and unrepentant sinners like we see in the movies. It’s a place where “good people” end up every day. This life I was living was a scandal. The Grace I had been granted was scandalous.

It was that day that I started my long and winding walk with the Lord. Along the way, through peaks and valleys and everything in between. I understood that what Jesus has done for me, personally, is truly scandalous! 

This moment. This episode, this stumbling block in my life, was nothing less than His scandal of Grace in my life. He looked for me continuously until I noticed Him waiting for me. This season did not happen to me but for me. Preordained since time immemorial. It was meant to cause me to stumble to the point where, like in the darkest night, the deepest foxhole, all that is left is your soul and God. In yet another show of His love for me, my life and my soul, Jesus reached out from Heaven and entered my life, my story, my history: He made me part of His story. 

Reckless love

The Bible teaches “what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”. I am thankful beyond words. In my bankrupt condition, God saw it fit to send His Son to die on the cross in my place. He provided the only currency capable of paying for the release of my soul. While on my way to Hell I was offered Heaven. That is the Scandal of Grace is that. Just as the songwriter says: “He didn’t have to do it, but He did”. When I didn’t want to know Him, He came looking for me; when I didn’t think I needed Him, He was patient with me; and when in my foolish hubris I would say “there is no God” He was gracious with me.

Scandal of Grace

I write to you now as the heir to fields I did not plant. Of homes I did not build, and storehouses I did not fill. My Heavenly Father owns it all. My Redeemer ransomed it all, and now, by the Scandal of Grace, I will enjoy it all. Thank you, Jesus. Amen!

Come Expecting

Why have you come?

How many times have you heard preachers and teachers and brethren alike quote Scripture such as “[God] own[s] the cattle on a thousand hills or “[God] will supply all your needs according to His riches in Glory, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus? Now, how many times have you, or someone you know, been in that very same service, prayer meeting, revival conference etc. and went home the same way you came? I don’t get it. You’re told to come expecting but nothing happened.

Come expecting what?

You named it, you claimed it, you believed it and the sciatica, the joint pain, the money trouble, the depression, the anxiety, the marital problems, the dissatisfying job were still there when you left that day. They were there when you woke up the next morning and when you went to work that Monday. So, what seems to be the problem: is it our prayers, our beliefs, or is it that we pray to a God that we either don’t really believe in or, worse, doesn’t even exist? How many times will we have to sit there and watch others receive their blessings while we are sidelined and left in our situations?

It would appear that something happens, or a few things happen or better yet don’t happen in the time between when we say it in our heads, confess it with our lips and believe it in our lives. 

Come expecting from who?

So, let me ask you a different question: have you ever asked a stranger for money? I would assume many of us haven’t found ourselves in that situation. Now, I’m not talking about a quarter to call home or spare change to have enough money for a cheeseburger. I’m talking about going to Walmart, loading up your cart, pulling up to the cash register. Then, out of nowhere, turn to the person in front or behind us and ask them to pay for our groceries!

Perhaps some of us have needed to ask a total stranger for cab fare or subway fare. Perhaps bump a ride to the hospital or for some other kind of emergency. Now, notice, in your mind you automatically can imagine yourself doing the second thing but not the first thing: everyone here can foresee themselves asking out of desperation but not asking out of gall, or temerity for a total stranger to pay for our weekly groceries.

God the stranger

Unfortunately, that is exactly what too many of us Christians do every single time they pray: we ask a total stranger to pay for their groceries, knowing fully well these two thing:

  • If we knew the stranger, there could be a chance of the stranger paying for the groceries. For example, sometimes you find yourself in line at the store with your next door neighbor. Having forgotten your wallet at home, your neighbor decides to spare you the embarrassment of having to put everything back and pays your grocery bill or;
  • If this was an emergency, a real emergency, you could appeal to the stranger’s good nature and he or she would find it in their heart to do the right thing: give you bus fare, buy you a quick meal, get you an Uber to the hospital, let you use their phone, or even give you a ride themselves. After all, Americans are the world’s number one hitchhikers. More Americans have gone cross-country without the use of a vehicle than any other country or nationality in the world! However, chances are that a full cartload of groceries is not for an emergency situation (unless it’s a national crisis). 

The problem here is that we, as Christians, have a false sense of what to expect and we have a skewed view of how to make these expectations come to pass. We want to come expecting. However, we pray lofty, verbose prayers, for all intents and purposes, to a total stranger! We know God provides, we know He loves, He cares, He knows, He sees etc. But somehow what we know of Him doesn’t materialize for us through Him! 

Relationship is key

God wants us to go to Him expecting. He wants us to rely on Him for every-single-little-thing-we-could-ever-need-or-desire! But that is based on relationship. Christianity is not a religion. Above all, a relationship! You see, only children can go to a father with expectations of him acting on their behalf. Children don’t make it a habit of asking. They tell daddy what they want. “Daddy, I want Nutella”, “Dad, get me that toy on top of the shelf”, “Dad, I want to go to the movies” and so on and so forth.

No child runs up to a stranger asking for stuff. Neither does a father jump into action when a stranger’s child approaches. The man will most likely look around and ask, “to whom does this child belong?” so that he can match the responsible party with the responsibility, namely, the child. But not only that. When was the last time you called your earthly father on the phone and went straight to “the ask”? You skip the pleasantries and go straight to hitting him up for money. Anyone? No, of course not! Then why use such reasoning with our Heavenly Father?

Citizenship is the lock

We have to stop acting like our Father in Heaven is some sort of Cosmic Vending Machine. We skip the praise and worship part of the service, come for most of the Message and answer the altar call at the end for the personal blessing. God is not a Drive-Thru! He is neither pleased nor moved by such empty religion. You can quote all the “name it and claim it” Scripture you want. They’re not intended to be some hocus pocus magic potion.

Yes, you have to approach the Throne of Grace knowing that God is ready, willing and able. Come expecting. But God doesn’t answer spam emails or private number calls. if He doesn’t know you, you ain’t getting His attention. Why, you ask? Well, who’s to say that you won’t give something else or someone else the honor and glory for the miracle? And then He would have to put you in your place, and you don’t want that!

Here’s your passport

As Born-again, Spirit-filled, Bible-believing Christians, it is our duty and privilege to go to God the Father through our Lord Jesus Christ and, with thanksgiving, make our petitions known to HIm. To call Him “Father” requires a relationship; that relationship would put us in a position to know Him and know His will; and knowing His will, we would never ask for things that are not according to nor within it.

Scripture tells us “delight yourself in the Lord and He will give us the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). Let Him give you the desires of your heart. God has the very best in mind for you, better than what you have for you. Do you truly believe that? Then come expecting that God our Father will apply His perfect solution to whatever may be troubling you. Come expecting. Expect an awesome God!

Thanks for what?!?

Empty Thanks

I remember my first Thanksgiving. It was 1988 and it was our first year in the States. We went over to a family gathering at a relative’s house and ate massive amounts of food. Turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing. But also very non-traditional Thanksgiving dishes. Things like shrimp and lasagna and tiramisú. We ate to our heart’s content and then…had some more tiramisú! We never gave thanks or gave “thanksgiving” any thought; for us and so many other families like ours, I fear, just like any other holiday, the reason for the holiday was buried under gifts and plans and “x-mas” and “gobble-gobble” and trips and food and football games and everything else except the holiday. 

For so long, thankfulness for the food at the dinner table was implicit. It was taken for granted. More often than not, it never reached its final destination. We would say things like: “thanks, Mom, that was delicious!” or “Wow, Dad, the oranges from the grove are amazing this year!”. God wouldn’t even get an honorable mention. We never even gave it a second thought.

Thank-less

It wasn’t until many years later when we gave our hearts to Christ that we finally took the time to understand and appreciate the meaning of the word and the value of being thankful. We began praying at every meal, something that had never ever happened in our home before under any circumstances. Finally, thanksgiving and gratefulness became part of who and what we are because of what Jesus did for us on the Cross. It was never lengthy, just long enough to say what we were thankful for, give some specifics and thank Him for every little thing along the way.

From then on, we made it a point to ensure that it wasn’t repetitious. We had walked away from empty prayers and meaningless repetition. So many times, my Dad would start to say Grace but it was in such a low voice and he would get so choked up that we would just smile and pick up along the way and finish off altogether with a family “Amen”! I always felt that my dad’s few, simple and tear-filled words were his way of making up for all the meals he had gone without giving thanks: he was both giving thanks and asking forgiveness for missed opportunities to be thankful.

Thanks = full

For a really long time I thought it was enough: being thankful for what you had, whether little or much, like the old hymnal says, knowing that God was in it. We made every attempt to express gratefulness from the most sincere place and with gladness of heart, thank God for His Majesty. Again, I looked to my father as my example. He’s an old and quiet soul with decades of wisdom and humility, as well as a simplicity of heart but a very astute mind. So many times, he would just take a deep breath, let out a deep sigh and say “Thank you, Jesus!”.

Those three simple words encompassed so much meaning and complexity and yet expressed with the sincerity of a farmer. That was the type of prayer I wanted to offer up to God. A prayer that in action and words acknowledges God’s Sovereignty and fully accepts His will.

Ignorance into bliss

As the years went by and the more my faith grew. The more my eyes were opened to how many things there was to be thankful for: every breath I took, every moment of rest where I could close my eyes without fear, every loving family member, every caring friend, every moment of happiness, every day among the living and so on and so on. Being grateful brought its own satisfaction and filled my heart with gladness and laughter. Understanding that God is sovereign not only in the long-term Plan but also in the moment-by-moment brought me to a reverence and an awe of God. The phrases we would hear preachers and pastors alike say so often like “If God were to call you Home right now, would you be ready?” took on new meaning. What if He called me right now, would I be ready?

Here’s what I learned. I learned to thank Him. Not only saving me but for keeping me. I realized that it was only by His Grace that I stayed the path. As in all human conditions and situations, churches are not immune from strife and contentiousness. All sorts of things could disrupt a church over the years. I had seen so many affected by various strife and lose heart, lose touch and lose faith. I can honestly say that it is by His Grace alone that I have not forsaken the fellowship of the brethren or fallen back into my old ways or found new ways of messing up. And for all of that I gave thanks.

Thanks for all

That’s when it hit me! I understood that God honored the sincere gratitude of my father’s prayers. He honored the detailed gratitude of my prayers. But there was still more. My father and I were still missing the other side of the coin. We gave thanks for the water and the food and the clothes and the strong family and the cool summers and mild winters and bountiful harvests and the fresh air and all the rest but something was still missing.

As Christians, we’re programmed to think that good things come from God because He is Good and therefore bad things come from the Devil because he is bad and therefore we only thank God for good things. We don’t thank Him for the bad things when they happen or the bad or worse things that never happen. We’ll go around rebuking the bad and thanking God for the good as if God isn’t the Master of it all. I came to realize that the Earth is truly the Lord’s and the fullness thereof! With a new-found contentment in my heart I started thanking God even more for the good things in my life, for the horrific things that never took place and for the bad things that could have certainly been worse. 

Higher ground

With this new level of understanding, I started thanking God for “nothing”. I thanked Him for things never took place: accidents avoided by Grace, catching the “late” bus that kept you from being at the wrong place at the wrong time, ringing the “wrong” doorbell, not getting in a friend’s car. Thinking back I could only stand in awe. Against my better judgement, I’m still in one piece, breathing, without a criminal record; married to a beautiful woman with three amazing children. A great job and a solar disposition. It could’ve just as easily gone the other way.

Thank God for Grace

What Love! It could’ve been miserable, penniless, divorced, addicted. Or worse. Away from the Church, unfulfilled and/or dead. I recently came across someone I hadn’t seen in 17 years. As is customary with “blasts from the past” you spend most of the time catching up. You talk about the people that were important to both of you at the time. After a major download of unbelievable twists and turns, this person shared with me a priceless jewel. They said, “lucky for you, they didn’t want anything to do with you anymore!”.  

Giving God thanks for “nothing”, I believe, is to truly understand the innumerable ways in which He provides for us. Whether it’s the things we don’t want to happen that turn out as life-altering blessings when they do or the things we do want to happen that, for our benefit, never pan out. This lesson was a very expensive one for me: It took a difficult time and a very dark place in my life for me to learn that the things we as humans believe are important and necessary in our lives don’t even begin to compare to the things God knows are important and necessary in our lives.

When to give thanks

So, when you’re passed up for the promotion? Be thankful. Lost a friend along the way? Be thankful. Suffered an illness? Be thankful. A loss of a loved one? Be thankful. Truly in ALL things, be thankful! He knows what you need. And He’s is a better Planner than you are! He knows where you’re going. Surely He’s a better guide than you! Also, He knows who you’ll need by your side. He knows what “preexisting conditions” you will need to go through to prepare you. Mind, body and spirit, for when you get to where you’re going.

Imagine giving thanks for the wrong you’ve suffered. Giving thanks for the bad breaks you endured and for the scars you’ve picked up along the way. It’s crazy! And yet it’s simple. As simple as believing in a God who loves us. He loves us enough to send His Son to die in our place. Just so He could restore our relationship with Him! These “light afflictions” as the Apostle Paul described them, are not a necessary evil but a necessary good to prepare us, to bring us, often times kicking and screaming, closer to God with a deeper and more free-willed dependency on God and a more intuitive surrender to His will, understanding that truly ALL things work for good for those who fear the Lord and are called according to His Purpose.