Part 3 of a series called Unconventional Gratitude, something near and dear to my heart, is a challenge to be grateful for not having enough.
When you choose to be grateful for the little and big things every single day, it can be life-changing (jump in on the 30 Days of Gratitude Challenge to see it in action!). Choosing to be thankful for family, smiles, and quiet mornings with steaming mugs of coffee is certainly worthwhile!
But, what if your heart of thanksgiving dove even deeper? What if you were even able to be grateful for those challenging, messy, ugly-crying-into-a-pint-of-ice-cream parts of life?
I believe Christ calls our hearts to overflow with thankfulness, in good times and bad. And if a grateful heart for the good things can change your life, imagine the transformational power of unconventional gratitude, saying thank you (and meaning it!) even when everything hurts.
Walk with me this month through 3 areas we tend to skip over in our gratitude journals.
Grateful for Not Having Enough
It’s pretty terrifying not to have enough money to pay your bills.
A few years ago, I felt like God was calling me away from my career as a sign language interpreter. It wasn’t a burning bush kind of moment or anything, just months of feeling this constant tug on my heart.
It wasn’t something that made sense. I liked interpreting. I had a ton of experience and all of the impressive certifications to back it up. It was a stable source of income and, yes, many days I just felt like I was simply going through the motions, but it was all…fine.
A few months after that tugging feeling had begun, I found out my position was going to be ending in the school district where I had worked for the last 7 years. (Interesting timing, huh?)
Losing that beautiful, steady paycheck was a bit painful, but not having that job gave me the opportunity to move back to Colorado to be near family, something I had been longing to do for years.
I had enough time before my position ended to save up and start planning for my next move. I prayed and prayed and prayed for direction.
I launched it, just like all of the experts in the field said to…and nobody bought it.
I started doubting my ability to hear God’s leading and fear started creeping in.
Should I really be leaving interpreting? How am I going to pay my bills? Why isn’t God’s plan working on my timeline?!
Life went on, my position in Arizona ended, and I made the move to Colorado, moving in with my most generous and amazing sister and her family (who I will be forever indebted to).
I always envisioned God’s path to be straight, like Proverbs 3:6 describes. I was doing my part as best as I could! I was praying. I was acting. I was working hard and submitting it all to Him, every step of the way…but the path has been far from straight.
Over the past year and a half, I can’t even tell you how many times I was sure I had the right path this time, only to run into a dead end and have to recalculate.
And during that time, my savings were quickly depleting and my income was next to nothing.
Oh, how I’ve wrestled with questions about my faith and my ability to hear God’s voice.
How do you even move forward when you feel so strongly that God is leading you toward something that just isn’t paying the bills?
I have faithfully been readjusting my plans every time they didn’t work out (and there have been a lot of them!) and seeking His voice at every step.
And, I just have to wonder…has that been the point all along?
“It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.” -Romans 9:16
Has this journey of struggling and wrestling and crying out in disappointment when my fears were realized been about coming to terms with the fact that I am not in control? That I can be seeking His will and be working impossibly long days as hard as I possibly can and still my own effort will not be enough?
I can’t say what God’s purposes are in every situation, but I can tell you that real life lessons in trust are hard.
- Trusting that God would help me lose 100 pounds and get healthy when I still loved being a couch potato and binging on chips and Nutty Bars didn’t make sense…but He slowly transformed my life and made it happen.
- Trusting that God would bring another man into my life after my divorce when I spent years without any prospects at all was heartwrenching…but He has brought a man that is more kind, gentle, and good than I ever could have hoped for.
- Trusting that God would provide financially for the dream He has placed on my heart has been a tearful, hard, gut-wrenching journey…but I know that He is faithful. And my story isn’t over yet.
There has not been one day in the past few years that I have gone without food, clothing, or shelter. All of my needs and more have been provided for and there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel.
I could show you His faithfulness, documented daily in my prayer journal – the people and the opportunities He has brought into my life over the past year and a half.
But, today, I am grateful for not having enough.
I am grateful for the deep intimacy in my relationship with God that I would never have reached without these years of learning to rely on Him for my needs more than myself. I’m still in the process of learning how to take my worries to the foot of the cross and leave them there, but I’ve sure had a lot of practice in doing so! I’ve learned to look at life through “faith eyes,” seeing God’s hand in absolutely every part of my day, which has made my gratitude soar as I see Him answering prayers right and left!
I am grateful that other relationships in my life have improved just as much. As much as I love being the giver, it has been a blessing to learn how to be a gracious and humble receiver, too. The generosity I’ve experienced has taught me so much more about God’s goodness than I ever could have realized if I hadn’t been in need.
I don’t know what it is in your life that you might be lacking.
Maybe you don’t have enough motivation, money, strength, time, energy, or something else altogether, but I would encourage you to look for the good, look for God, and be grateful for this time.
Our sermon last week was on waiting, specifically during Advent. The pastor spoke about how waiting is not wasted time. It is a time where God is preparing us for the gifts He has to give, not on our timeline, but on His.
So, I urge you, friends, to find joy in the waiting. Your story isn’t over yet.