Thankful Despite The Tragedy

“Hey, good morning! I haven’t seen you in a few years. What are you doing in this neck of the woods? I gave him a big bear hug and said, “Oh, it’s so good to see you. Is my friend still attending your church?”

“She is. And you know, she gives you a lot of the credit for her spiritual journey.”

“Really? I didn’t do much.”

“She talks about you often. You know she was baptized recently, and she’s been going to a Bible study on Wednesday nights.”

“That’s great to hear. I know she loves your preaching, and it’s funny that both of you moved to the same city and ended up in the same church.”

“God is always working, isn’t he?”

“Yes, he is. Well, great seeing you.”

As I sat in my chair, my pastor friend preached a message on being thankful even though Thanksgiving was over. It was a great sermon with Scripture from the book of Colossians, chapter one.

As I was leaving church, another friend commented that she found my Teaching Lady Facebook page.

“Geez, you have a lot of followers on your Facebook page. That’s great.”

“Thank you. The YouTube channel is also doing good, and my blog is ten years old. I think I’m up to 900 blog posts as of today.”

“That’s fantastic. Well, I have to go. Have a great day.”

“Hey, you too.”

As I walked out of the church, I couldn’t help but think of the morning. It started at 5:00 am. I was lying in bed thinking about what this morning was like 33 years ago. I got a call that changed my life. As I pondered the events of that morning, my mind went to how much my life had changed since that day.

I decided to scan my Facebook memories to see what I had written about it in the past, and of course, the memories of that day had been shared a few times over the years.

I copied one of the posts and messaged a young man who was in my youth group several years ago. He recently reconnected with me and had some questions. He was seeking, and the Lord was tugging on his heart. I sent him the post, and we chatted back and forth for a bit. If my story could help him in any way, it was worth all I experienced.

Today, of all days, three people have told me how much they appreciate me sharing my faith with them and others. If they only knew what today was and how much this day 33 years ago changed my life.

I had a great time until the call at 5:30 in the morning came on November 27, 1989.

Do you want to know something? I was not living for the Lord then. There was no relationship with the Lord back then, only with the world.

I often wonder where I would be if that event had not occurred. Would I be alive? Would I be writing and sharing my faith with others?

Why share my faith? Why talk about this life-changing event all the time? When you have been saved by grace, wouldn’t you?

Colossians 1:13, “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

My guest pastor friend shared a story this morning in his sermon, which was so accurate. I call it the retirement example.

“Thankful people are thankful for what Jesus has done for them on the cross. Thankful people recognize that their needs and their wants are different. We are a people who are broken and so far from God, and through the love of Jesus, he has pulled us into a relationship through the cross and resurrection. That gospel that hope should be the very thing that centers us that when we wake up in the morning before we put our feet on the ground, we thank God.

For many of us, we need to recognize that there are needs and wants. The need in gospel-centered people is to be fully dependent on Jesus.

Don’t waste your life.

What is really a need in life? John Piper wrote this years ago.

“Three weeks ago, our church heard that Ruby and Laura had been killed in Cameroon. Ruby was over 80 years old, single all her life, and poured it out for one great thing – to make Jesus Christ known among the unreached, poor, and the sick. Laura was a widow, a medical doctor pushing 80 years old, and serving at Ruby’s side in Cameroon. They were both retired; missionaries across the sea. One day the brakes went out on their vehicle, and over the cliff, they went. They were killed instantly.

Was this a tragedy? Two great lives driven by one great vision were spent serving the perishing poor to the glory of Jesus Christ. They had spent two decades after their American counterparts had retired to throw their lives away at trivial things in Florida or New Mexico. That’s not a tragedy; that is a glory.

I’ll tell you what a tragedy is as he reads from Readers Digest. He reads a story, “Bob and Penny took early retirement from their jobs in the northeast five years ago. He was 59, and she was 51. They lived in Punta Gorda, Florida, where they cruised in their 30-foot troller, playing softball and collecting shells. That’s a tragedy. People today are spending billions of dollars to persuade you to embrace that tragic dream. With all my heart, I plead with you, don’t buy the dream – the American dream – a nice house, a nice car, a nice job, a nice family, a nice retirement, collecting shells as the last chapter before you stand before the creator of the universe to give an account of what you did. Piper says, “Here it is, Lord, my shell collection!”

Don’t waste your life. Don’t do it.”

When I apply this lesson to my own life, I could have wasted my life and done nothing to bring glory to the Lord.

It’s funny but not funny – I blamed God. I could have chosen the other way – and lived a life apart from God, a life full of regret, anger, bitterness, self-loathing, loneliness, and despair. I could have stayed angry at God for taking my best friend out of this world. That would be the same God I wasn’t following or living for – yes him.

Instead, my thankfulness has led to servanthood any way I can BECAUSE of his grace and mercy.

It would be years before I understood the fullness of what he did back then, but that doesn’t change my gratitude and desire to serve him as much as possible.

So on this day, I am still thankful for what happened 33 years ago. My life changed in an instant. But, I am thankful for the lessons learned and for knowing how much the Lord has done in my life. I can tell story after story of the Lord’s goodness and mercy even when I didn’t deserve it.

To God be the glory for my neighbor who got baptized, for all the followers on Facebook, and for the young man who reached out to me for help. To God be the glory for everything I get to be a part of to serve him. Like those 80-year-old women who went over the cliff, I want to be remembered for my service to the Lord, not for all the things I accumulated or the mistakes I made.

I started this blog ten years ago. I have written over 900 blogs to date. I can’t think of one blog that somehow doesn’t point to the Lord. I may never have thousands of followers or thousands of daily views like other sites, and that’s ok. I have a YouTube channel with almost 200 videos pointing to the Lord. I don’t have thousands of subscribers there, either. But I think I can safely say the Lord gave me one, and I took that one and did the best I could to make another one.

Oh Lord, you are good and faithful, and I am thankful. I love you, Heavenly Father. On that day, when I see you face to face, there will be no shell collection. I pray I hear you say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”


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