Blessings Through Adversity

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Thanksgiving is almost upon us and with it comes a time to give thanks for all the blessings we have. Living in a democratic free country that has bountiful resources and beauty everywhere, finding things to be thankful for comes rather easily. We have so many blessings that at times it may almost seem too good to be true. More often than not we think of materialistic and physical things we have when it comes to our blessings. We are thankful for our homes, food, families, good health, and the many possessions that make our lives more meaningful and enjoyable.
As Christians we believe that our blessings are given to us by God. But we can be rather fickle at times. When bad things occur in our lives, we often question God by asking, “Why me?” We seek to find answers to explain why bad things happen to good people. Yet when we are showered with blessings we rarely ask, “Why me?” We simply take our blessings for granted and sometimes we fail to give thanks for them.
Four years ago I had to unexpectedly take an early retirement after 36 years as an elementary school teacher. I had spent 51 years of my life in a classroom either as a full time student or as a teacher. When medical issues forced me to take an unplanned retirement, my life was suddenly turned upside down. Because of serious vision loss I suddenly was restricted as to where and when I could drive. Chronic pain and fatigue due to fibromyalgia restricted me from performing the duties that were required of me to continue in my teaching profession. Within a very short time I found myself sitting at home with too many empty hours facing me each day. It didn’t take long for depression and self pity to set in, and my life suddenly was not a very enjoyable experience.
I realized that I had to do something about my situation. I wasn’t sure what I could do, and I tried various volunteer activities, but nothing seemed to give me any satisfaction. Then one day I had this strong desire to visit one of our local hospitals to inquire about volunteer opportunities. It was a decision that changed my life, and it was a decision that brought many new and unexpected blessings to me during the next four years. I realize now that God had a new plan for me. I was about to undertake a wonderful new journey in life.
I have had so many new and rewarding experiences during the past four years that I would never have experienced if it were not for my health issues. Countless new friends came into my life while being a volunteer at Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire. Meeting and helping patients there has given me new insight to my own life. I no longer feel sorry for myself or sit around in self pity. Instead, I consider myself very fortunate when I compare my life to many of the patients I see. When I work in the cancer center each week, I have contact with some of the bravest men and women who I have ever known. Despite having bodies that are being ravished with cancer, many of them continue to be positive and upbeat about their lives. God has given them the strength and courage to continue fighting for each new day, and God has given me an opportunity to help them in many small ways.
Because of my vision loss and fibromyalgia many changes have come to my life. My wife and I have joined a new church closer to our home, and it has become a true blessing as we continue to meet new people and find new ways to serve our Lord. Through my work at the hospital I have made many new friends, all of whom would today be strangers if it were not for my health issues. Being home many more hours a day has enabled me to fulfill a life long dream of writing a book; thus the creation of Mayberry Reflections the Early Years. The extra time on my hands has also allowed me to expand my teaching of the Back to Mayberry Bible Study which has also resulted in many new friends and wonderful experiences.
Do I believe God caused my ailments so my life would move in a new direction? No, I do not, but I truly believe that as a result of my ailments, God has called me to a new service and He has led me to the places and people that are now such an important part of my life. When adversity strikes, one does not have to give in to it. With the help of God and supportive family and friends, one can overcome it.
I often wonder if I could get back all my health and return to my past way of life, would I do it. Would it be worth it to give up everything I have gained because of my adversities? I honestly must say I do not know. But I do know that when I think of all the blessings that I have received because of my health issues, on this Thanksgiving Day I will truly have many things for which to be thankful.
Ken Anderson’s book Mayberry Reflections: The Early Years was just released this fall from Westview Publishing.

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