Blog Post by Abby McDonald
Christmas vacation came to an abrupt end as my husband and I listened to water gush underneath the bathroom floor. It wasn’t just coming out of the drainage pipe. No, it sounded like a waterfall beneath our feet.
The longer we stood there waiting for the noise to stop, the more dollar signs I saw adding up in my head. This was the second plumbing issue we’d encountered during Christmas break, and we still had not received the bill from the first service call.
As my mind raced with endless possibilities, I sent up a frail prayer hoping the damage would be minimal. Although I avoided complaining outwardly, I inwardly assumed the posture of punished child.
Why did this have to happen right after Christmas, when we’d just spent money on travel and gifts? Why did these types of things always happen in multiples?
Potty training a high-maintenance, strong-willed child added to my list of stresses. A struggling family member kept me awake at night.
As my inner monologue rehearsed all of these things, it sounded like a six-year-old whining. But the thought that disturbed me the most was one I’ve seen countless times from followers of Christ when times get hard: Why was God punishing me? What had I done?
Had we missed a tithe check, neglected acts of service or turned a blind eye to someone in need? As my mind sunk further into a downward cycle of self-pity, I knew my thoughts were not from the Creator. I was in the midst of a battle of the mind, and I needed to grasp onto the light of Truth.
I stole a few moments by myself and counted gifts. I thanked God that I have a husband who is handy and able to make repairs when times get rough. I thanked him that we live in an area where we have resources available to us. As I walked our dogs, I praised God for the beautiful weather we came home to the previous day. But the further I went down a rocky, uneven path, the more one question kept repeating itself in my head.
Why do I perceive negative circumstances as punishment from God, but often fail to recognize blessings as God’s love?
I reflected on everything I love about my life on a given day. A song that comes on the radio at just the right time. The way my three-year-old throws himself into hugs, his whole body wrapped around you. A beautiful sunrise that turns the entire horizon a deep shade of orange.
How could I not look at each of these gifts and think, “Wow, God must really love me”? And if I recognized each of these blessings as an expression of love from my Creator, how would it change me?
James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
He does not change, friends. He doesn’t have a mood swing and decide to clog up your drain. He doesn’t get hormonal and decide not to listen to your prayer. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)
When he allows us to face trials, it is not because he is angry with us, but to draw us to Him and refine us. Each struggle we face is an opportunity to build character.
Tonight, as I sit in the soft glow of the Christmas tree, I’m still counting. I’m counting not only the gifts he’s given me, but the ones I know will come. Because he’s that good.
As the list grows, I feel his love swelling up inside of me. He loves me so much. And he loves you, too.
So today, as your brewing your coffee and listening to your favorite tune on the radio, remember he created this day just for you. Let truth of that realization sink in and fill you with a love so deep it overflows.
Abby McDonald is mom, wife and southern girl who fell in love with writing at a young age. She started Fearfully Made Mom because she felt God gently pushing her to share her writing with others who may feel alone in their struggles with self-doubt, accepting God’s grace, and finding their identity in Christ. Her desire is to show women they are fearfully and wonderfully made by a God who will relentlessly pursue them, even during their darkest times.
When she’s not chasing her two little boys around, Abby enjoys hiking, photography, reading, and consuming copious amounts of coffee with friends.
Abby would love to connect with you on her blog, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.
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Loved this…It is so true that we often default to the conclusion that God is punishing us, when as you said, He is growing our character and drawing us into Himself. As I look back over my life, I can say, that it’s been the trials that have drawn me into the deepest abiding in God. Is this not love…just in a different form? Thank you, as always, for being spot on with your insights into God and His character. Hope it’s not an arm and a leg to get your plumbing problems fixed…have been keeping you in my prayers…
Blessings and ((hugs)),
Thank you for your prayers and encouragement, Bev! Happy New Year to you, my friend. Love in a different form…so true.
Abby, your words ring true. So often I can feel crushed when things happen. It can be so hard in the moment to embrace trials. Thank you for gently reminding us of truth. Both are gifts as you so eloquently point out. I am blessed by you this morning.
Yes, embracing trials is a lifelong lesson and I think it’s easier to look back and see God’s hand than it is to see it when you’re in the middle of them. Thanks so much for cheering us on, Kelly. You bless me so much.
Wow! God has certainly started off my year filled with my one word–focus. You point out so beautifully how what we focus on makes all the difference. Focusing on God’s blessings and enjoying each one brings joy and contentment–even in the yukky stuff of life. Thanks, Abby, for starting my year off with the perfect message!
I’m so glad to hear this fit into your one word focus, Sabra. Yay! I love that word and can’t wait to see how God brings new insights throughout the year.
Our human, fleshly instinct is always toward that with which Satan tempted Eve, isn’t it….that God is a punitive God, not wanting us to have ‘our best life now’. When, in fact, He is refining us through trials so that we look more like Jesus and we look more TO Jesus. What a beautiful post, Abby.
Leah, I was just thinking about Eve after I wrote this. You are right; it is our instinct to think that way. Thank you for sharing your thoughts here and Happy New Year!
Abby, I too used to think that when something “bad” happened it is somehow wrong or a punishment. When God changed my thinking by whispering to me “Who said this situation is a problem? See the solution in it. See my grace.” Thanking Him today to see GRACE in all situations.
Amen, Tyra! He never said this life was going to be easy, but I’m so thankful for his grace and patience, and that he continues to refine me each day. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.
Oh Abby, I put myself in your place when I read about the dollar signs going around your head while you listened to the water! I loved this: “Why do I perceive negative circumstances as punishment from God, but often fail to recognize blessings as God’s love?” It is so true! I’m going to start saying that as I count His gifts: “Wow! God must REALLY love me!” Thanks for your story.
Oh yes, Betsy. I have the habit of seeing those dollar signs in a lot of similar situations. God always provides though, so why do I doubt? Happy New Year, friend, and love hearing from you as always.
I am quick to jump to WHY too. Chasing WHY leaves me tired and empty though. I am learning to invite Jesus into my story without forcing him into a particular role. As much as I long for him to restore all things right now, I must trust his heart towards me and my situation. And he has given me a couple of great gifts that looked neither good nor perfect at the time. (I am not saying your plumbing issue was a God-gift.)
Astrid, you made me chuckle with that last comment. Yes, asking why leaves me empty as well. I think it’s often easier to look back and see God’s hand than it is in the moment of difficulty. Thanks for sharing!
YES!! A RESOUNDING YES!!!
I reject the “Prosperity Gospel” for this very reason! It leaves little room for the understanding of what God desires to work in us through trials!
The gospel does offer prosperity BY our trials and testings, not in the absence of them!
I always think of Job when I am tempted to think of tough times as “tough love.”
These times are necessary to our sanctification, James also says “the trial of our faith works patience.” Patience here in the Greek refers to the ability to abide under a weight. It helps us strengthen our faith muscles!!
We all need that kind of workout!
Thanks for sharing this, Abby! It always blesses my heart when truth goes out that helps tear down lies we believe!
Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts here, Christy. I so much agree that God has not promised us an easy road, but he desires the very best for us and wants to refine us. Happy New Year and thank you again for your encouragement!
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This is so encouraging to me. I have to admit I fall so quickly into the trap of self pity. I am learning it is a real battle that has to be fought. Thank you. Loved this post.
So true, Amy. It is a battle. I’m grateful for God’s unending patience with me. 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts here today.