By Contributor Ann Dunagan of Harvest Ministry
This month, as we’re focusing on suffering, I want to encourage you to remember the persecuted church worldwide . . . in the context of a story from my kitchen and my kids.
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”
Let’s Keep Our “Suffering” in Perspective
“Hey, that’s not fair! You already got one-and-a-half more pieces than me!” Our daughter gave our son a selfish glare, as he proceeded to “stake his claim” by grabbing for the butter and syrup.
As I was working on yet another batch of French toast, I realized our kids definitely needed more than food on their plates. Our family needed a fresh lesson in thankfulness and gratitude. The petty bickering was really bothering me, especially in light of several stories I had read only a few hours earlier.
So, while the kids sat on their stools at our kitchen counter, waiting (not so patiently) for our next round of French toast, I proceeded to give a lesson:
“You know, kids, we need to be thankful for what we have, and realize that we have been given so much! Instead of complaining, God wants us to continually live with an attitude of thankfulness and joy.”
“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” I Thessalonians 5:18.
Note: We don’t have to be thankful for everything (as some temptations and attacks are clearly from the enemy). However, in everything and every situation, we can be thankful and full of praise. God is still on the throne. He is God and He is still worthy of our worship (even at this moment). We can always find something to be thankful for, even for grace to withstand the challenge. When situations are tough, we can choose to WORSHIP, no matter what. And here’s a specific phrase I often think about when I am feeling distressed or discouraged (and tempted to worry or fear): “God is worthy of my brain-space!”
Let’s Remember the Persecuted Church
Just that morning, I had been reading a Voice of the Martyrs magazine, about how a minister named Richard Wurmbrand had endured persecution while being imprisoned for his faith. He had spent over 14 years in Romanian prisons, including long periods in complete solitude – with no Bible, no books, no scrap paper or pencils, and (obviously) no one to talk to. Even during this horrible time, this man still found ways to be grateful.
The article shared how Rev. Wurmbrand meditated on Scripture he had memorized, and how he (along with other Christian prisoners) kept his mind active by praying fervently throughout the night for various needs from around the world. Yet the example that most-deeply touched my heart was reading about how this man of God learned to rejoice.
For a moment, I put down my spatula and reached for the magazine lying on the counter. “Just listen to this guy’s attitude,” I told my kids. “This man found reasons to be grateful, even in prison, and even when there was absolutely nothing to be thankful for:
“The Bible tells us about one of the great joys we can have,” Rev. Wurmbrand explains, “even in a prison cell: ‘Rejoice with those who rejoice’ (Romans 12:15). I rejoiced that there were families somewhere who gathered with their children, read the Bible together, told jokes, and were happy with each other. Somewhere there was a boy who loved a young girl and dated her; I could be happy about them. There they had a prayer meeting; and there was someone who studied; and there is somebody who enjoyed good food, etc. We could rejoice with those who rejoiced.”
- Quote by Richard Wurmbrand, Founder of The Voice of the Martyrs – (Excerpted from The Triumphant Church, pp.32-33).
Let’s Be Thankful (even when times are tough)
We need to have hearts of gratitude, which means being thankful for even little things that we usually take for granted.
I asked my kids, “When was the last time you were grateful for your toothbrush or toothpaste . . . or for your teeth? Or when was the last time you were thankful for hot running water, or a good toilet?”
That morning, I was also inspired by three examples I had read in a little booklet about gratitude, and my kids heard about these as well:
Back in the 19th Century, a well-known commentator named Matthew Henry was robbed. Yet even in the midst of a terrible circumstance, this man found ways to be grateful. Just listen to this attitude, as written in Henry’s journal:
“Let me be thankful, first, because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my purse, they did not take my life; third, because, although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed!”
David Brainerd, a devoted missionary to the Native American people, was characterized by a thankful spirit. Even when he had a high fever and great pain, he was thankful that this challenge had come when he was among friends; when he ill and alone in his little hut, he thanked God saying, “Blessed be the Lord, I am not exposed in the open air . . . ”; and in another instance, facing weeks of outdoor solitude, forging through swamps, and enduring dark nights, he thanked God that his loneliness “drove him to experience intimate fellowship with the Lord . . . ”
And if you remember Disney’s classic film, Pollyanna, the story of a missionary orphan who goes to live with a difficult aunt. This sweet-natured girl brings joy to the entire town by looking on the bright side of things, an attitude she calls her “Glad Game,” even in the midst of challenges.
(Examples adapted from The Attitude of Gratitude, by Nancy Leigh DeMoss).
By the time the kids had a fresh plate of French toast, they also had a quick lesson in gratitude, and I was feeling better as a mom.
Proverbs 22:6 tells us, “Train up a child in the way he should go”; and in Deuteronomy 6:7, “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.”
Later, our son came up to me and asked for forgiveness for his attitude; and I could tell he was truly sorry. And our daughter, who just moments ago listened to me read this article, asked me to please tell those of you reading this that she already said she was sorry, and that she’s thankful . . . but actually, her brother was the one who started it.
Dear Visionary Womanhood Friends,
I wanted to add a little addendum to this article to let you know that this will be my final “farewell”post on Visionary Womanhood. The Lord has been opening new doors in regards to family-mission ministry and my husband and I are switching gears in several areas. In the future, I’ll be blogging more seriously at Daring Daughters, our mission and orphan updates will continue over at Harvest Ministry, and online teaching, speaking information, and mission-minded books are at Family Leadership Online.
Great links for HOPE and JOY . . .
As a sweet word of blessing, I wanted to add a link to a final farewell post to bring a message of HOPE and JOY, even during times of hardship and suffering, with many of my favorite links — specifically to bring you encouragement!
With lots of love and appreciation to Natalie and to everyone at Visionary Womanhood,
Blessings to you!!!