During this time of the year when our thoughts migrate toward the many blessings for which we are thankful, it is not unusual for families to get together and publicly identify things for which they are thankful while gathered around a table of feasting. Normally when going through this important exercise, one will hear blessing after blessing recounted of which most are usually in reference to family, pleasant experiences, or treasured material things. It is harder to recall times of hearing thanks being given for the various times of loss, the unwelcome experiences, illness, and other stressors; we just do not like focusing on such things. We tend to be thankful, understandably, for what pleases us. However, should not we also be thankful for that which challenges us through stressing us in ways that we would never have chosen if left to our own volition?
Each of us has a limit to the amount of stress we can endure, but we have been made to function best when there are times of limited stress placed upon us. In reference to our bodies, physical stress, or work, is something that is required for us to live long lives. Just recently discovered is a specific protein that is produced and excreted in our bodies only during times of physical exertion; this protein has been proven to provide a preserving function for the portion of our brains associated with memory. Without the physical stress, the protein is not produced and mental decline is more likely to occur. In reference to this season of the year, we can see some beautiful examples of the results of stress upon the leaves of trees. The reduction of sunlight and temperature causes a decline of the green chlorophyll pigment and the underlying other pigments are then seen with variations among oranges, reds, yellows, and browns. We all like looking at the beauty of what stress has produced in those leaves, but are we just as thankful for the stressors that result in such glorious scenes?
I’ve told many patients struggling to accept the hard reality of a debilitating ailment that they would have no peace with it until they could thank God for it. It is not our first thought usually to turn and give thanks for the stressors, but it needs to become such. How the events of our lives shape us has most to do with how we allow those events to affect us through how we learn to think about them. In the Bible, we can read of Daniel’s stress when confronted with a corrupt government full of deceitful people who wanted to seek the demise of him and the God that he served. Those were times of great similarity to our time. Daniel knew of the plots against him with a new law passed and that he could be sentenced to death for praying publicly to God, but yet we read this in Daniel 6:10 (NKJV), “Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days”. Even those threats did not change him and the story continues how he was thrown into a den of lions, but God saved him from demise and exalted him further. Without the thanks being given for the stress, the miracle would not have happened. We need some miracles in our day as well and they start with giving thanks to God for not only what we want, but for those challenging stressors also.