Thankfulness is an antidote

My husband Andy, late Director of FamilyLife,  was welcomed home to heaven in 2018.

A lifetime of health challenges

Andy had a lifetime of health challenges which included 27 years of kidney dialysis, 3 kidney transplants, skin cancers, lung infarction, lymphoma cancer, a stroke, and 2 heart attacks. In June his heart finally failed during an angiogram. I believe God said “enough is enough, you’ve fought hard all your life. Come home good and faithful Andy and receive your crown of righteousness.” Oh what I would have given to have seen that – and to have also seen our daughter Natasha welcome her Daddy home.

That picture brings much comfort to me when the reality of living life without Andy proves too hard to bear. As I find myself walking this road of grief yet again I lean into God Himself and to the promises of His word – once again.

The weekend before Andy went home we were speaking at a Church on “how to survive tough times”. In this article I thought I’d share a little of what we spoke about, as we all will experience tough times. Jesus Himself said ……

“Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world”. (John 16:33).

And that’s what I love – while God allows (not causes) pain in our lives, He also limits it. It will not get the ultimate say because if we have trusted in Christ then ultimately it all ends in triumph.

However, how do we live well while we’re here on earth?

How do we rise above our circumstances when we’re facing tough times?

I believe it starts with thankfulness. In fact the bible actually tells us to…..

“give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”(1 Thessalonians 5:18).

I remember years ago when Andy had a stroke and the future looked pretty bleak. We didn’t know at the time if he would ever walk and talk again (and he still had to dialyse). I became incredibly fearful for the future, wondering how we would cope financially and practically. In that moment I sensed God reminding me “Nikki you need to be thankful”. Thankful? How can I be thankful for this?

I sensed Him say “Not thankful for this, but thankful IN this”. And so as I started to verbalise all I could be thankful for; a husband who had loved me to wholeness, 3 children whom we thought we couldn’t have, and a ministry that was changing lives, I was able to take my eyes off my fear of the unknown and look up and trust God. I could trust Him for the future because of what He had already done in the past.

Thankfulness helps to grieve well

As I remember my daughter Natasha, I choose to cherish the 16 years we had her. I choose to be thankful that her life brought us incredible joy. I’m grateful that we had so many fabulous family experiences with her, and that she hadn’t experienced sorrow. As Ann Voskamp says in her book,‘One thousand gifts’, “thankfulness shapes a theology of trust. The crux of Christianity is to remember Jesus and give thanks”.  So as I remember Natasha and give thanks, it helps!

As I grieve Andy, it helps once again. I’m thankful to God for 28 years of marriage, not a perfect marriage (there isn’t one) but a marriage that was fulfilling, life giving and meaningful. I’m thankful for a husband who cherished me, who challenged me to give more of myself, who encouraged me to take risks, and taught me to trust God for too much rather than too little.

I’m thankful that through grief I learn to value those I love more

I learn to appreciate them as they are (not as I want them to be) and to make sure they know.

I’m thankful that because of Andy’s health difficulties we truly made the most of every day together, not taking life or each other for granted.

I’m thankful that because of the tough times I’m more sensitive to the pain of others.

I feel I have a greater empathy and compassion for others.

And I’m thankful that because half of my heart is with those whom I love in heaven, I have an eternal perspective, not just an earthly one.

My thankful and grateful heart is proving to be an antidote to the pain I am living with but I know will also be a key to a meaningful future.

Read Andy’s book ‘Treasures in the darkness’ and be inspired to ‘live within’ while ‘living without’.

Nikki Bray

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