Stepping stones.

Yesterday was one of those really bad, nothing is going right, frustrating days.

And my daughter was getting frustrated as well.

And I thought back to a conversation I had with a woman this past weekend.  She had been in chronic pain for twenty years.  Twenty years.

She said this last June she was reading in First Thessalonians…and when she got to verse 18…lights starting going off in her mind.

12Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. 14And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.15Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.

16Be joyful always; 17pray continually; 18give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

19Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; 20do not treat prophecies with contempt. 21Test everything. Hold on to the good. 22Avoid every kind of evil.

23May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.24The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.

She said she felt a little foolish at first…thanking God for her chronic pain and as this confession tumbled a small avalanche followed, with a confession of pride, bitterness, grievances…

And one morning shortly after this she woke up without the pain.  A novelty for her.

Am I suggesting that when we thank God for the hard things in our life He will always bring healing?  No.

Am I suggesting that when we talk to Him He will make everything magically better?  No.

But there is a great mystery here…that when we make a confession of thanks for the hard trials, somehow He transforms them.  When we look off the circumstances and me, me, me…that’s how she put it…it changes everything.

Part of our Sunday morning study had casually mentioned Paul and Silas in jail.  Were they grumbling?  Were they complaining about the beatings, the lousy food, the conditions?  No.

They sang.

Acts 16

22The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten. 23After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

25About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose. 27The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”

29The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

31They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole family.

35When it was daylight, the magistrates sent their officers to the jailer with the order: “Release those men.” 36The jailer told Paul, “The magistrates have ordered that you and Silas be released. Now you can leave. Go in peace.”

In the thanksgiving, spiritual victories are won.  Freedom is granted.  Salvation occurs.

So on our not so very good everything is going wrong day…I got it…we needed to start being thankful.  And when we did, the tide turned and storm calmed.  And even though we couldn’t change the unfolding of our circumstances, our patience and thankfulness became manifest to those we were interacting with.

These are the small decisions that can change the course of a life.

So when I sat down to my devotional reading this morning, I was not surprised when Elizabeth Elliott shared a story about a woman who was convicted to stop complaining.

He is asking me to sing.

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