I didn’t feel like being grateful. My right foot began to throb as I depressed the brake, waiting at the light. I ran my thumbs over the smooth curve of the steering wheel, impatient.
“I am so tired of all these physical problems!” I moaned to myself. “Is part of the foot pain coming from the low back, like that one doctor said? Or is it something else? And if it is, how am I supposed to pay for the decompression treatments he said would likely help?”
The gray, overcast day reflected my mood. For days, impenetrable murk had hidden the shape of God’s vault of blue heaven above. Instead of feeling lifted up and free upon stepping outside, oppressive gray clouds weighed heavily on the mind, closing you in, stealing the chance for an upward, hope-giving glance at that inverted bowl of blue and the majestic mountains of white clouds.
Across the intersection, I saw a gray-haired man in a wheelchair, also waiting for the light. Time flashed back thirty years, to one of those moments that, when you experience it, you know you will always remember.
Thirty years ago I had been driving home from my secretarial job where I sat outside the door of a sarcastic, mean, and hyper-critical boss. I was feeling sorry for myself, dreading sitting down with the bills when I got home where I would have to stretch my single-parent income beyond belief, and angry that my daughter, at age 15, worked at McDonald’s so she could have extras like magazines, make-up to experiment with and an occasional movie. There, bumping along on the side of the road, in the uneven dirt, was a young man in a wheelchair. There were no feet propped on the footplates of the wheelchair.
Instantly a saying from Al-Anon days came to mind. “I complained because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.” That day, through tears, I had counted my blessings, literally, all the way home.
Now, as I sat at the light, looking at that old man in the wheelchair, recalling the lesson God had written on my heart so long ago, I knew something was really wrong. I still did not feel like being grateful, even after such a direct message from God.
Why was I floundering? The immediate reason for my sour mood was that I was returning from the gym, to which I had driven for the swim which aways eases my back. But three minutes in, they closed the pool for chemical rebalancing. The light changed. I resumed my fuming.
“I have to exercise more than anyone else I know and I still have so many physical problems. That is not fair!”
As I pulled into the parking lot, light finally penetrated my darkness.
“Lord, You promise to work good out of everything so I am going to see what lessons You have for me in this experience. I am going to get good out of this. Please help me get my attitude right, Lord! I am sorry but I am really mad about everything!”
I inhaled deeply as I walked toward the stairs, enjoying the smell of the drizzle that was starting and the slight chill in the air that gets pleasantly into your bones, so refreshing after months of sticky heat. As I unlocked the door, insights flooded in. I was reminded of the series of blog posts I had just finished on Isaiah 30, which teaches that all the time we have turned away from God He is eagerly waiting, looking and longing to be gracious to us (Isaiah 30:18) and that He fights our enemies for us when we return to resting and depending on Him.
Like a pouting little child stamping her foot, I had, finally, looked up at my Heavenly Father and raised my arms to Him. And, like the father of the prodigal who was eagerly watching for his son to return, God ran.
The blessings of insights from God. How blessed we are that God invites us to talk things over with Him. In Isaiah 1:18 He says:
“Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, they shall be like wool. (AMPC.)” And James 4:8-11 tells us “Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will lift you up. (NIV)
Prayerfully I reviewed what had gotten me into such a vile state of “unworthy and unwarranted suspicions regarding God’s faithfulness.” (Jeremiah 15:19, AMPC). For days, I had tried to be grateful, to just talk with Jesus about the problems, ignore those fickle old feelings and just move forward. For days I had been unable to feel His presence and His peace. So, despite strong effort, worry, fear, anger and resentment settled into my heart.
Oh, those foxes, those little foxes! [My heart was touched and I fervently sang to Him my desire] Take for us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards [of our love], for our vineyards are in blossom.” (Solomon 2:15, AMPC). When I look back now, now that I have, by grace, regained peace, the problems that made me stumble seem so little. I am sure you could write a similar list. Mine was ongoing and worsening back problems; no funds to cover the treatment that might help; ongoing and worsening foot problems related to that; the need for minor foot surgery in two weeks, surgery that would further complicate all the back problems when I could not exercise for a while afterwards; having to wait three weeks for insurance to cover new eyeglasses; worsening eye pain and strain each day, not knowing if that was caused by the need for new glasses or cataracts or dry eye, the expensive remedy for which insurance also did not cover.
It seemed that everything I use each day, to just live and to write, which is a great joy, was falling apart. Another contributing factor to self-pity and irritability was the lingering week-long cold.
“Why couldn’t I be grateful for all God had done?” I asked myself as I reviewed the blessings God had showered on me this week: stopping the blood thinner, which had caused much fatigue for an entire year; getting me unstuck after weeks of struggling with a hard chapter in the next book; and showing how to modify some daily activities so as to help with feet and back issues.
Besides all of that, there were the huge, huge blessings that are a part of daily life: salvation, a close relationship with Him, some of my family being saved and faith to believe for the others; living close to family; living in America; money for all my needs and many of my wants; deliverance from depression; training in keeping emotions stable; and the knowledge of how to return to God when I sin and/or bad things happen.
God’s deliverance. So, here is what I told myself to do.
 Ask God to forgive me for my wrong attitudes and complaining and ingratitude. Two verses I greatly value are: 1 John 1:9, which says “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (NIV)” So simple. So necessary. The second is Proverbs 28:13 which teaches us that “Whoever conceals their sin does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” In doing that, we humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand and He will lift us up in due time, as He promises in Peter 5:6-7.
Confessing our sin is doing what James 4:7-10 commands us:
7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
 Make up my mind to God thanks for everything I can think of, no matter how I feel, and to praise Him. I Thessalonians 5:18 tells us “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (ESV) Psalm 100:4 tells us to approach God with thanksgiving and praise in our hearts. Consider this quotation from Debbie Przybylski on www.crosswalk.com.
God inhabits our praise. The word “inhabit” or “enthrone” (yashab) means to judge in ambush. When we praise God, He will seat himself right in the middle of our lives and judge the enemies that are surrounding us. The Japanese translation of Psalm 22:3 is: “When you praise God He brings a big chair and sits there.” Think about that! God is seated in the center of your life. The enemy cannot dethrone you because God cannot be overthrown!” https://rb.gy/fz4791
 Ask God to impress the lesson of this painful experience deeply on my heart. Psalm 103:18 in the AMPC has a vital lesson for me. Verse 17 says that “. . . from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him. . . “(NIV) The thought continues in verse 18: “to such as keep His covenant—hearing, receiving, loving and obeying it; and to those who [earnestly] remember His commands to do them [imprinting them on their hearts] (emphasis added). To me this verse says that when we earnestly, whole-heartedly, lovingly obey the Lord we imprint, or write, His word on our heart. This is part of the new covenant we now have through Jesus that God explains in the book of Hebrews. In Hebrews 10:16 God says “I will imprint My laws upon their hearts, and I will inscribe them on their minds (on their inmost thoughts and understanding.)” (AMPC)
Taken together, these verses reassure me (and, oh how I need that reassurance!) that as I follow God’s commands God imprints them, like a brand, on my heart and mind. This is part of how He works in my heart to give me godly desires and enables me to live a holy life (Philippians 2:13). He is changing my nature so that I want to love and serve Him even more.
Verse 14 of Psalm 103 is also instructive in this matter. It says that God understands exactly how we are made. “For He knows our frame; He [earnestly] remembers and imprints on His heart] that we are dust.” (AMPC). This says to me that if God imprints on His heart how much we need His compassion, we should imprint what He wants us to do on our hearts. If He loves us so much, how can we not respond appropriately? Selah. See what Holy Spirit tells you about these two verses. And all of Psalm 103.
 Thank Him for His loving discipline (Hebrews 12). In times of trial, whether we are partly the cause or not, it is well worth taking time to ponder the truths of Hebrews 12:1-13 and John 15:1-17. God uses hardships to train us, for our good, so that we may share in His holiness (Hebrews 12:10b). He trims or removes from our lives the things that bear no fruit and He also works with the things that do bear fruit so that those things may bear even more fruit (John 15). Clearly, some of my branches needed to be cut off and thrown away. However, God was lovingly working with my heart so that the faith, hope, trust, and self-control I had would increase.
Two thoughts to keep in mind. So dear friend and fellow oh so human human being, here are two thoughts that I pray will ease your heart as they do mine.
One, God knows exactly how you feel and has deep compassion on your fleshly tendencies whether you are a new believer or 50 years old in the Lord. He included many stories in the Bible about mature saints who yielded to complaints, worries, and fears. And He included how He loved and worked with them every time when they sought Him. Consider the failings of Moses, Elijah, David, and Jonah, just for starters.
And two, God is not mad at you for automatic, instinctive reactions of your flesh. Pinch my arm and my flesh reacts with physical pain. Pinch my circumstances and my flesh reacts with negative emotion. It is a trap of the enemy to feel guilty about such feelings and let them continue, subconsciously feeling we have failed Him and He must be mad at us.
Even when we, being so very human, let wrong thoughts stay in our heart, God is not mad at us any more than a parent is mad with children who react in childish ways. He just longs to lift us up and restore us to His side. Think of how often He forgave the Israelites as they wandered in the wilderness and then when they lived in the land He had promised.
When you see a little child stumble and fall and you hear that piercing wail of distress you want to pick up that child, hold him close and tell him everything will be alright. You feel that child’s pain. That is compassion.
How much more does God feel compassion for us when we stumble? In Isaiah 49, God says His love for us, and His consciousness of us, is greater than that of a mother with a tiny infant. In Isaiah 49:16 God says “See I have engraved you on the palm of my hands;” (NIV)
Beloved one, “The LORD is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.” (Psalm 145:8, AMPC). To be filled with something is to have no room for anything else. Do a word study on God’s compassion.
No matter what is happening in your life, no matter how your feelings have reacted, humbly present yourself to God. He will lift you up “. . . for He is good; for His mercy and lovingkindness endure forever.” (Psalm 118:1b and 29b, NIV) Every verse in Psalm 136 repeats that statement. Think about why God did that. He did that for you.
God will always raise you up, to make you more than you can be, because He loves you. Ponder that as you listen to “You Raise Me Up”.