I woke up at 4:00 this morning thinking about a lot of things. Not very pleasant things, mind you.
I got out of bed, went to my office and opened the window. The sun was just beginning to light the night sky. Birds were singing loudly. And I began to consider all I have in life to be thankful for.
I am thankful for this beautiful morning.
I am thankful for my beautiful, still sleeping family.
I am thankful for God’s love and grace.
I am thankful I am not a giant disembodied eye ball being chased before a crowd of spectators at a sporting event.
Sometimes you have to be thankful for the stranger aspects of life as well as the obvious.
The truth about our lives is often difficult to see clearly. When life gets stressful, or troubles plague us or we just end up depleted from everything going on, it can be very easy to believe nothing will ever improve. Nothing will change.
But that’s just belief based on what we see. Our perceptions are based on what we sense: feel, touch, taste, smell, see.
For example, when we smell a skunk, we perceive a disgusting, pungent odor. The skunk perceives security, as this is his protection. (Unless, of course, you are the already-dead road kill skunk I somehow managed to run over some years back, fifteen minutes into a four-hour long drive on a very, very hot summer day. While skunk spray may stop a huge brown bear from mauling it’s potential prey, it is no match for a speeding Pontiac. For that particular member of Genus Mephitis, the car was mightier than the stench. My perception of the ordeal was not one of security, but nausea.)
Perhaps a twice-flattened dead stink otter isn’t the best illustration here. Let’s consider the well known – and well worn – example of the iceberg. When we see one (and, trust me, here in Minnesota they are a very rare sight) we think, “Look at that giant mountain of glacial ice!” (Of course, having never seen one, I can only imagine my response would be something akin to “Look at that giant mountain of glacial ice!”)
But, what we see – what we perceive with our limited mental faculties – is only a small piece of the total picture. Indeed, only about 10%, as the remaining 90% of the iceberg is submerged. If what we believe about the iceberg is based simply on what we see, we miss the majority of it. We also have to consider what we cannot see – a fact any survivor of the Titanic could have corroborated.
If we look at our situations, our lives, ourselves, and all we see is hopelessness, or failure, or despair, or sorrow… we are basing our beliefs of faulty perceptions.
Don’t misunderstand me. We need our brains to discern the 10% of the iceberg we can see.
But perceiving the remaining 90% requires faith, “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1, KJV). If all we live by is what we see with our eyes, what our feeble brains can figure out on their own, we’re going to hit an iceberg. And we won’t have ample lifeboats to survive the frigid waters. Another fact any Titanic survivor could have attested to.
However, when we have faith in God – when we begin to see who Jesus is, and who we are reflected in Him – we find hope, and strength. And we begin to see that the troubles and pains of this life are not the whole story. Not even close. In fact, they only count for about 10% of our story. The remaining 90% is still under water, waiting to be revealed.
Don’t look at the troubles you see and believe that’s all you have in life. There is a deeper purpose for your suffering. I cannot tell you what that is. I will tell you that the Lord can take every situation and use it to grow us, to strengthen us, to help us bring hope and empathy and joy to others. Heck, you may even come to embrace your hardship with gratitude!
And if you can’t start there, well… be grateful that you’re not a giant disembodied eye ball being chased before a crowd of spectators at a sporting event.