It’s the time of the year where we count our blessings. Every November I am reminded of the abundance in my life. I am astonished by God’s goodness and make a conscious effort to be thankful for the things I take for granted– heat in the winter, gas money to run errands, a dishwasher and washing machine just to name a few. You know, the simple “daily things” that I often mistakingly view as an entitlement– rather then a gift.
Even with the overflowing gratitude of my heart, at times I have struggled with a quiet discontent, I call it, “the uninvited guest.” I know we aren’t supposed to talk about this, but can I just be real for a moment? For many, the holidays are disillusioning at best, painful at worst. We count our blessings, but we also count the things that seem to be missing. If you’re on facebook or Pinterest. the reminders of “more and better” are everywhere– from perfectly gourmet recipes, to colorful tables, to happy drama free happy families– we long for perfection and ease on the day when we are supposed to be most content with “whatever we have.”
Our hearts are full, and yet sometimes the inconsolable ache of our human condition (the uninvited guest) is overwhelming. For some, it’s an empty seat around the dining table; you miss the laughter and joy of a loved one that passed away and traditions just aren’t the same without them. Or maybe, divorce or estranged family relationships is the source of the strangely quiet house. For others, the ache stems from unfulfilled longings and the reality that another year has passed with delayed dreams.
Sometimes, we have prayers that go seemingly unanswered for weeks, months, or even years. We cry out, beg and plead with God for that new job, new relationship, or new possession. We hope against the odds for physical healing, restored relationships, or guidance. We get frustrated when our sincere requests are only compensated with “silence” from God.
The inconsolable ache is present in varying degrees in every single one of us. Even in the grandest, most joyous moments of life, we are aware that something here on earth is amiss. The evidence is most obviously displayed when you consider the emptiness that many millionaires, A list celebrities and professional athletes share.. Even with the ability to have everything their heart desires, their weary souls find no rest and security.
I have experienced the nagging presence of the ache, but I have also joyfully experienced the only remedy for it. In my seasons of desperation I have learned that the many prayers that seemed unanswered, were actually answered with the greatest gift of all: God’ sustaining presence.
Quite simply, God’s presence with me has been enough. Those aren’t cheap words. They are words that I have learned in the darkness– when I felt alone, abandoned, and forgotten. They are words I have learned when I have struggled to hold on to hope in circumstances that seemed unending. Those words were learned during times when I did’t get what I desired and God didn’t solve my problem like I had anticipated. Truthfully, the inner peace derived from God’s presence has guarded my heart while facing a generous amount of deferred dreams and crushed plans.
In my life the disappointment and the ache of longing have both fueled my dependence on the only One who fulfills. If you’re struggling this year, please know, it isn’t ungrateful or disrespectful to voice the deepest desires of your heart to God. Tell Him what you’re feeling and ask Him for his help in realizing contentment that comes when you trust Him to be enough. God’s presence is much more of a gift then any of his “presents.” As a child of God one of the most incredible privileges is the discovery that in those rare moments when you have “nothing else” you recognize that He is unfathomably more then you could ever need.
[photo credit, Mathijs Delvas]
Christina Stolaas discontentment faith gratitude struggle Thanksgiving