As we approach the end of our calendar year and liturgical year, we tend to look back to evaluate our life. We count our blessings as well as our trials. In counting blessings we often look at our material possessions, but seldom count our trials as something for which to be thankful. We often think of our trials as something to be avoided, or as a punishment for our own sinfulness or the sinfulness of others.
In the 1st letter of Peter we read: “Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.... you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.”
For seventy years my family and I were blessed with good health. However, on Christmas Day, 2012, I suddenly became ill. Because I am a man and can handle the pain, two days later, I underwent emergency surgery for diverticulitis. My colon had burst and I was full of infection. Doctors told my family I had a 50/50 chance of survival. Over the next two years I underwent three more surgeries related to my original surgery. I did not question God as to why this was happening to me; I honestly was glad to be able to unite my suffering with Christ’s suffering, offering it up for others who are less fortunate than I.
God gave me an angel to help me through it, my wife/nurse of 50 years who happened to retire on the day of my first surgery and has been my private duty nurse for the last five years. I also have a loving, family and friends who support me with their love and prayers. At the times when I felt lowest, I was embraced by Christ’s loving arms. When I was in pain or felt lonely, I found comfort in my faith, reading scripture and praying for others who are not as blessed as I am..
I trust that God does not give me more that I can handle. I know that His plan for me includes everlasting life with Him. Over the last three years, I have been hospitalized numerous times, had five more surgeries and continue to grow closer to God. I even joke that I have found a new weight loss program. it’s called “losing weight, one organ at a time.”
Yes, I can look back over the past five years and be thankful for for my illness and surgeries, and for the love and grace I have received. I know that God loves me. He has allowed me to grow through these trials and to be able to share with others the consolation and healing power that I received. I also know that I am “blessed and that His Spirit is with me and one day I shall see His glory” just as it is said in Peter’s letter.
Happy Thanksgiving, my friends.