“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” – 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Our pastor came to speak to my women’s group for a devotion earlier this year and shared a story that has stuck with me ever since about a king and his advisor. The king lost his thumb on a hunting trip only to be met with the standard reply by his advisor that “it is good,” a sentiment the advisor shared in every occurrence of life regardless of circumstance. Furious by the response, the king put the advisor in jail, to which the advisor again replied “it is good.” Later, the king went hunting again by himself. This time, he was captured by a group of savages intent on using the king as a sacrifice. Upon noticing the missing thumb, they released him based on the superstition that he was not whole and therefore not a sufficient sacrifice. The king went immediately to the prison where he apologized to his friend and advisor. He agreed that his injury had indeed been good since it spared his life, but he wondered how the advisor could have declared his imprisonment good as well. After all, he had been right in his initial response to the injury but was sent to jail anyways. To this, the advisor replied, “it is good because if I wasn’t in jail I would have been hunting with you and they would have killed me.”
There are several variations of this Taoist tale, but the moral is always the same and is echoed throughout the Bible: in all things, give thanks. It’s a hard lesson at times. I realized this summer that grateful praise, much like love, is not a feeling. It is an action, a decision. I vividly remember standing in the shower of my boarding bathroom between NICU feeds, singing thanks and praise to God as tears of fatigue and sadness and confusion ran down my cheeks. Sometimes, praise happens that way…the hard way.
When Eliza got put on oxygen unexpectedly and then weeks later got readmitted to the NICU for the placement of an NG feeding tube, I did not feel like giving thanks. I felt overwhelmed and so frustrated by all the steps we seemed to be taking backwards. Then about a week ago, Eliza spiked a fever of 104. For three scary and exhausting days, she did almost nothing but sleep. We went to the doctor twice but were spared from another NICU admission because of the interventions we already had at home. The supplemental oxygen gave her body a boost as it worked so hard to clear the infection, and the tube allowed her to take almost all of her feeds while still sleeping. Not only did it keep her from becoming dehydrated and needing an IV that could only be placed in the hospital, it kept her right on track for calories and weight gain. Suddenly, the interventions I had cried over were welcome gifts…members of “Team Eliza” and her road to recovery.
We started antibiotics that Sunday evening to treat what we can only guess was a pneumonia aspiration. I realize that sounds terrifying (and is), but she bounced back quickly after that and has been great ever since. I don’t know what that will mean for the next big swallow study on the 13th, but for now, I’m trying my best to enjoy the present and, more importantly, to trust that no matter what it brings (and what anything brings for that matter), it will be good. Because so far, it really is so good.