In the Shallows, there’s a great little analogy for how we can give thanks for the hard things in our life, knowing God can use them for our good.
When a shark attacked and had Nancy pinned on a little rock in the midst of a rising sea, a stinging reef and a swarm of jelly fish stood between her and the safety of the buoy nearby. She’d already been stung and had no interest in being stung again. The stinging things seemed her enemy as much as the shark. But here’s the thing, she learned that the shark didn’t like to be stung, either. The very thing that seemed to hinder her swim to the buoy was, in the end, the thing that protected her as she swam to the buoy. Sure, she got stung a bit…but the stinging wasn’t as deadly as a shark bite would have been.
It ended up being an analogy for the rest of her life’s problems as well. Nancy had to endure pain to find freedom. She’d been running from it. Her mom’s death. Her uncertainty about her career and her frustration with her limitations; her inability to save everyone… She was running from those things, avoiding them, just as she’d been avoiding the reef and the jelly fish. But she realized that freedom was found in facing them, even allowing herself to be hurt by them, not in avoiding them. That in avoiding them there was a greater danger.
It made me think of that scene in the Hiding Place. Corrie Ten Boom was furious about the lice (or was it fleas?) in their bunks. Her sister said that God told them to give thanks for all things, even those biting pests in their beds. Corrie couldn’t see how. But she tried. Eventually she began to see how those bugs were a blessing to them. The guards were every bit as annoyed by those bugs as they were. The difference was, the guards had a choice to avoid them. Because of those pests, the guards rarely entered the bunk house and the women were left a little bit of privacy…which meant they were able to have Bible studies and pray together without facing persecution.
Those bugs were a blessing. Yes, they had to endure stinging and biting and discomfort, but that discomfort protected them from something much worse. It protected them from persecution and from the temptation to stop growing in their relationship with Jesus (because of the persecution).
Sometimes in our lives we are giving things that sting, that make us uncomfortable, that we would rather avoid. Can we give thanks for those things? Can we see in them God’s provision for us? His protection, even? Can we press into those things, diving into them, embracing them even, despite the pain, trusting and hopefully even seeing that they are saving us from greater harm? Freedom is often found in the stinging things, not from them.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
Questions for Discussion:
- Have you ever had something in your life that seemed to be a bad thing that turned out to be a good thing in the end?
- Do you trust that God can use all things for good?
- What things in your life are like those jellyfish, stinging and uncomfortable? Can you see how they might be good for your life in some way? Can you give thanks for them even if you can’t see how God could use them for good?
- Truly finding freedom in life takes grit and enduring pain and difficulty… How desperate are you to truly live? To truly find freedom? How willing are you to endure the stinging things, knowing that through them and in them is where freedom is most often found?