Giving thanks. This is the one time of year where everyone takes time out, even if only for a moment, right before they dive into a huge turkey, to give thanks for what they have. Even if someone has seemingly nothing to be thankful for, they go with the flow and say, “I have a lot to be thankful for,” and they at least play along for the day. (And people everywhere, except Texans, are thankful when the Cowboys lose!)
But not everyone really gets what gratitude is about. I see it all the time when people look at me. When people see me, they see – besides an extremely handsome man – a guy in a wheelchair. And even though our society has made great strides in helping our culture become aware of the “normalcy” of a disability, deep down most people are saying, “Thank God I’m not like that guy!”
It is very easy to give thanks when everything is good in life. It is easy to give thanks when our family is in order. It is easy to give thanks when Satan isn’t attacking us from every angle. It is easy to give thanks when our church is growing, when the tithe is coming in, when our staff is getting along, and when our board is agreeing with every decision we are making at church. Deep down though, how many of us can truly give a sincere, heartfelt thanks when we are going through the tough times?
Growing up with Cerebral Palsy, I can honestly say that I didn’t have too much trouble dealing with how God made me. I mean, I didn’t know any different. I was born with CP, and I didn’t know what it was like to walk, talk, play, and do everyday life like everyone else. I didn’t even grow up in a semi-functional home. My parents were divorced when I was 10 years old, and drugs, alcohol, violence, cops, screaming and much more were a big part of my younger years. But even then, I thought life was pretty normal, and I had it pretty good. (Actually, I did laugh and play a lot, but in a different way than most.)
Now I am 35 years old and still single. Trust me—it’s not for lack of trying. In fact, it’s not even because my of standards are too high. I tell people that there are just two things I am looking for in a wife: a good-looking woman who loves Jesus! Is that too much to ask? I don’t think so. LOL.
Anyway, this year has been a serious challenge to my trust in God. God brought a wonderful woman into my life, and we started dating. The relationship got serious and we both started talking about spending the rest of our lives together. I thought, “Thank you God. After 35 years of being alone, you are going to bless me. After 35 years of remaining pure, you are going to finally reward me.” I was on the ride of my life. Everything was going great until one day she walked into my office and surprised me. “Scott, I can’t live with your disability for the rest of my life.” And she walked out the door and out of my life.
Okay Scott. Now what? Give thanks? Here I am in ministry, traveling the world, telling people how to smile in spite of circumstances, and now I am facing harsh realities that challenge the very message I preach to others. How can I give thanks? How can I praise Jesus, smile, and say God is my only source of happiness? Do I truly believe what I have been telling everyone else?
The truth of the matter is, from a purely human standpoint, I can never be content with my life. On this earth, I will always use a wheelchair, I will always have my past, and my-hopefully-future-spouse will have to bear with my disability. If you take all of this into account, it’s definitely an assignment to give thanks with a truthful spirit.
But my God shows me I can. First, he’s convinced me that he made me just the way I am. Psalm 139:14 says, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Wow, God! The person that I see in the mirror is the person that you formed in your hands. That is an incredible thought. Who am I to tell God that he has made a mistake? He didn’t, and I should thank him for how I am physically.
So God and I are cool. But what really hurts, though, is life. The rejection. The worry. The fear. The pain. The anxiety. I am trying my best to walk with God most of the time, but life just really hurts at times. God helps me out again with Psalm 139, verse 16: He shows me he planned every day of my life before I was even born. You mean to tell me, God, that you knew how much pain I would go through 35 years later? That means there’s a purpose to my pain! Thank you, God, that the challenges I face are not in vain!
Psalm 139 was a hard concept for me to grasp. But then God revealed something to me as I was speaking to a bunch of college students one night. What if God was allowing me to experience these circumstances to be a witness to even one person? All that pain that I had experienced in my life – what if that allowed just one person to receive Christ? Again, “Wow, God!” Thank you for using me as a tool to reach people that you love.
Thank you, God, for your unfailing love. Thank you, God, for loving me enough to let Jesus bleed for me. Thank you, God, for making me just the way I am, funny accent and all. Thank you, God, for making me so good looking! Thank you, God, for shining through me. Thank you, God, for using me for your purposes. Thank you, God, for making me an illustration of your love. I love you, God!
Scott Anderson is available to speak at your church. Click here to find out more.