When my cousin Paul Dahlke and I were around 20 years old, our families gathered for an Easter Sunday dinner at my parents’ home. Following the meal, Paul and I decided to shoot baskets at a playground court a block away. We had just started shooting when two strangers arrived. Convinced that Paul and I were no match for their perceived basketball prowess, they challenged us to a game. Had Paul let me be the spokesman, I would’ve taken my ball and gone home, Michael Jordan athleticism wasn’t one of my God-given talents. When the concrete settled, however, Paul’s strong inside game and my “lights out” jump shooting resulted in a rout of epic proportions!
My basketball transformation that day certainly was not grounded in my innate athletic abilities and skills, but was based on my confidence in Paul, who had traveled the competitive road of pickup games before me. During our desert, transitional time following our ministry downsizing or career loss, we are acutely aware of our limitations. God seems light years away. Although we haven’t lost our faith, prayer is not easy for us. We’re at a loss for words, perhaps not even knowing where to start. It is precisely at this point that we need to look at Someone who traveled that road of suffering before us, our Lord Jesus Christ. As the Holy Spirit draws us to Christ, we praise Him solely because His Word is true. This, in turn, produces authentic transformation, unlike being driven to God through fear or desperation.
As w place our confidence in Jesus, we loosen our grip on our burdens. Corrie Ten Boom once wisely observed: “Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts when God pries your hands open.” Even in our darkest hour, through our sorrow and our pain, intentional acts of praise are essential and life-changing. St. John of Avila stresses the importance of thanksgiving in adversity:
“One act of thanksgiving, when things go wrong with us, is worth a thousand thanks when things are agreeable to our inclinations.”