We’d sat in those same seats at the English teahouse a dozen times before, had the same cup of tea, the same pastries, the same kind of conversation. But this day was different. Something hard had happened earlier in the week, and I wasn’t really in the mood to talk about it. But we were—we were talking about it. And all I wanted to do was change the subject.
And then she asked it, the question that changed everything: “I don’t understand. I know you’re sad, but you still look so peaceful. How do you have so much peace about it?”
I’d tried to talk with my friend about Jesus before, and she’d listened politely, but within seconds she let her eyes dip to the side; her mind wandered to other places. Today was the first time she’d asked the question and the first time she’d wanted to hear the answer.
It was an answer to prayer. And I was grateful.
Why My Thankfulness Is Often an Afterthought
That day wasn’t the first time I’ve thanked God for something surprising he had done to bring beauty from ashes, to bring redemption in the middle of something painful. But it was the first time I realized my gratitude for these kinds of things is always late, later than it should be.
The reality that God is working something grand and purposeful in the middle of my rough patches often escapes me until the moment it’s sitting in front of me, drinking tea and asking about my peace. Why is it, when the hard times come, I don’t immediately raise hands of thankfulness, knowing that he’s working out the plot of his eternal story in the middle of my pain, for my good and for the good of others? The answer’s easy. Because it hurts, and that hurt often chokes out my gratitude.
I Wouldn’t Trade My Story
I sat recently with a new friend at the breakfast table of her farmhouse as we drank coffee and stared out over the sprawling acreage just past the porch. The pond out back was fuller than I would’ve expected it to be in the middle of a record-breaking Alabama drought.
My friend seemed fuller than I would’ve expected her to be, too, as she started sharing her story.
Her husband passed away a few years back. It rocked her world. And the next words out of her mouth were, “And I wouldn’t trade the story of what God has done in my life for anything.” The night before, she’d hosted a group of ladies in her front yard to snuggle into lawn chairs with blankets and listen to the gospel being preached. One of the women said, “If you’re around her (my new friend) for very long, you’ll see her phone is always lighting up with texts. She is all about relationships.”
She was absolutely right. And she’s thankful.
Opening Our Hearts to the Bigger Story
I’d never make light of pain. Not mine or anyone else’s. But I think that our Father sees it as a fragrant offering when we can lift our hands in the midst of pain and be thankful for the bigger story, the one that’s bringing sons and daughters all over the world to the peace he offers, from farmhouse tables to English teahouses.
It’s a proactive way for our hearts to be tuned, to know that the heart of the One we love and serve isn’t just to help us survive the worst. He’s got the pen set to the paper of a fantastic story. It’s a broken hallelujah we offer up, one that can say thanks, because we trust him, even before we see how this will be redeemed.
It’s counterintuitive. But it’s his delight, and it brings life to others. It opens our eyes to see the door swing wide for opportunity.