Be Careful What You’re Thankful For

August 11, 2015, by Kristin Neva

We’ve had a few rough days. As Todd’s health declines, our old method of transferring him works only some of the time—when his feet aren’t too swollen. I had a couple rough nights in a row, getting up in the middle of the night to help Todd get comfortable. I was on edge—monthly hormone fluctuations and sleep deprivation don’t contribute to emotional stability. Both nights, I wasn’t able to fall back asleep, and I lay in bed crying and feeling forsaken. I prayed for comfort that did not come.

I tire of praying. Todd and I continue to pray for his healing every night before bed. I just did the math. We have been at this for over five years. That means we have prayed that God would heal Todd more than 1,825 times.

At night, when I’m tired and want to sleep but need to help my dear husband, I silently count as an alternative to crying or screaming. 1, 2, 3, 4…. I count to distract myself.

Sunday’s sermon on suffering also had me silently counting so I wouldn’t break down in tears. I lost it during the closing hymn, It is Well with my Soul. I headed to the bathroom and cried because it is not well with my soul.

Then, I walked downstairs to get my guitar. Two of my friends saw my tear-stained face. They listened to me talk about the difficult last few days, empathized with me, and prayed for me. I felt better.

I told them about my nighttime counting. One of my friends encouraged me to instead pray, “Thank you for my hands.” I might not feel thankful, but I can choose an attitude of gratitude that I have the strength to care for my beloved. I grudgingly agreed to try it.

That night as I was tiredly putting Todd to bed, I silently prayed gratitude and found that it did improve my mental health. When I woke up with Todd in the middle of the night, I again prayed, “Thank you for my hands.” It was better than counting the seconds until I could go back to sleep.

The next morning, I woke with shooting pain in my right arm. I laughed at the bitter irony. I finally thank God for my hands, then, wake with one unusable. Who am I? Job? Is this a test? Will she curse God and die? What the heck?

Shooting pain in my arm continues to flare up with slight movements like raising my right hand to my ear or using that hand to roll Todd onto the sling. I have a chiropractic appointment and a massage at the end of the week. Until then, I am down to one good arm for certain tasks.

This morning, cuddling up next to Todd, I screamed in pain when I lay on my right shoulder. I managed to get him in the sling and in his wheelchair using mostly my left arm. As I lowered him onto the toilet I said, “I am thankful for our overhead lift. I couldn’t do this one-handed with a Hoyer lift.”

“Be careful what you’re thankful for,” he said.

Everything we have can and will be taken, except for “an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.” (1 Peter 1:4)

I am an American Christian and have been a part of a culture that consumes practical results-oriented teaching: 6 Steps to a Happy Marriage and 5 Ways to Raise Great Kids Who Love Jesus. I wish I could find 4 Steps to Overcome Grief and Emotional Pain. I pray, read the Bible, exercise, and practice gratitude. Four things. I should be able to overcome my sorrow and write a New York Times bestseller: How to be a Super-Christian in Times of Crisis. I long for a formula.

I’m increasingly aware and afraid that there is only one formula: death.

John 12:24-26:

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.

The message of Christianity is the message of the cross—a message of life through death. Suffering. Sorrow. A death to self, desires, dreams. Servanthood.

But, one day, resurrection.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18:

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison. While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

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