Our Unexpected Journey

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Floyd has had a good week.  During the "40 Days of Worship," we have been endeavoring to have at least one person with him each day worshipping in his room.  There have been some sweet and special times.  On Saturday when I was with him, he slept through most of my visit - but I still sang and prayed over him.  Then he woke up with a smile!

During the chemo I've gone through this year, I've had many unpleasant side effects!  I'm still battling a couple of them.  The very term "side effect" conjures up painful memories for me.

But I was reading recently about another kind of "side effect".  I read that thankfulness has the wonderful side effect of increasing our joy!  I like that one.  I can live with that side effect.

One of the things I've learned on this unexpected journey we're on is that thankfulness is a choice.  It doesn't just happen.  It flows from our thoughts.  Proverbs 23:7 tells us that "as a man thinketh, so is he."  I know I've shared about thankfulness before on my journey, but I just can't get away from it.  God keeps bringing my focus to it over and over.  It is such a key to walking in victory through hard seasons.

We may not always have control over our situation and circumstances in life, but we do have control over our thoughts.  It's so important to think in accordance with the truth of God's word.  Our thoughts will impact our emotions.  Our emotions then influence our behavior - and, consequently, our response to life's circumstances.

I've found if I don't take control over my thoughts, they bounce all over the place.......and my emotions bounce with them.  I have to focus my thoughts on God's goodness, faithfulness, sovereignty, grace, and sufficiency.  When I think on those wonderful attributes of God, thankfulness fills my heart!!  And joy then bubbles up.

I've also found in the hard, difficult circumstances of life that I need to constantly look for God breaking into those situations with His goodness and mercy.  I can miss how He's helping me if I'm too focused on the circumstances, and not actively looking for God at work in them.  God is always at work in our lives.  He never takes time off!

"Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for mankind."  Psalm 107:8

"I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds."  Psalm 9:1

"Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever."  1 Chronicles 16:34

"The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and He helps me.  My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise Him."  Psalm 28:7

"Give thanks in all circumstances."  1 Thessalonians 5:18

I hope one of these days to be finished with the chemo side effects.

But I don't want to lose the side effect of joy that comes from a thankful heart.  I'm asking God to help me continually have a heart of thankfulness. 

There are several dear friends going through hard times right now.  Everything in me wants to "do" something to help, but truthfully all I can do is pray.  What I call "valley times" are hard!  I keep thinking of a teaching Floyd's mom gave on the valleys in our lives.  I may have mentioned it last year.  She said we have to go through the valleys of difficulty, trial, and preparation in order to reach the mountaintops of release, fulfillment, and provision.  In between the mountaintop of God's promise, and the mountaintop of God's provision - there is the valley of preparation.

The valleys are often where things are planted and cultivated in our lives.  We have to till the ground of our hearts.  It sometimes means digging very deep into our lives.  But it can be fruitful in the valley, too, as we wait for the mountaintops that God has for us.  God uses this time to grow us, and to teach us important life lessons.

There's no denying the valley times, but it's not meant to be the focus.  God is the focus!  He holds our hand as we go through the valley.  He doesn't plan for us to live in it forever.  He wants us to grow, to even live above the circumstances as we cling to Him.

"Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me."  Psalm 23:4

It feels like I've been walking through a valley for a long time now.  I'm thinking that surely it's time to move on to the mountaintop!  As I look back I realize that as I've been going through the valley, God has been carrying me on His shoulders.  I haven't been alone - or even had to do most of the walking.  God has truly "carried" me!  And He knows when the right time is to move on to the mountaintop.

There's a song by Michael W. Smith that says "even in the valley He is faithful - He's working for our good."  So true!  He's doing beautiful things in our lives while we walk through some of the hard valley experiences.  When I look back over the journey, I see God's hand at work in so many ways.  He has been very faithful!  I can't thank Him enough.

"Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid......for the Lord your God goes with you.  He will never leave you nor forsake you."  Deuteronomy 31:6

"For everything there is a season, a time for everything under heaven."  Ecclesiastes 3:1

"The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble.  He cares for those who trust in Him."  Nahum 1:7

Sometimes as I'm walking through the valley, the vegetation and trees are so thick that I can't even see the mountaintop God is guiding me towards.  I don't know what's ahead, but I can trust His direction.