Gratitude Turns What We Have, Into Enough
by Sherry Bitler
I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:10-13 ESV
The Apostle Paul writes this letter to the Philippi church while he is imprisoned. He is testifying to God’s faithfulness in giving him opportunity to share the Gospel even in the midst of prison conditions. Paul challenges readers to be humble servants, rather than concerned about their own welfare.
Not too long ago, I received a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. My limitations made me feel left out. I went through a time of grieving the loss of my quality of life. The love and support of my family and friends is priceless in this journey. They encourage me to remember all that I can do, and they give me permission to rest without guilt. I want my family to see me as a content person. I want to celebrate each day God gives me.
My husband, Butch, is very supportive, but I struggled with the change this would mean to the plans we had when we retired. Butch believes that this is God’s plan for our lives right now and he is committed to partnering with me. Together we want to choose to live trusting in Him. Each day, this verse, posted on my wall, strengthens my resolve:
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.
Joshua 1:9 NIV
I am trying to manage daily injections and a considerable slowing speed in movement. There is a struggle going on between my physical self and my emotional self. It is frustrating to operate at this new pace. Walking is no longer something automatic and easily taken for granted. Each step requires me to will my brain to remember the process of moving one foot in front of the other. Suddenly everything I do needs to be thought out carefully. The mornings begin very slowly, so I don’t schedule anything before 10:00. There needs to be a plan to manage my health, my mobility, what I will be able to accomplish in a day, and how much energy I will have to interact with others.
I had to transition from leading a large staff to maintaining our modest ranch home; from managing ministry to hundreds of children to hugging our twelve precious grandchildren when they visit. (That hugging part is not difficult!) I have, for many years had a passion to mentor young women, wives and mothers of young children. When I was first learning to live with MS, I did not think I had the energy level needed to continue in this ministry, not to mention the pain level I was experiencing. Learning to live with my illness took much of the energy I did have.
In time, I was able to find a balance that allowed me to continue the mentoring of young moms. I think one of the most profound realizations was, mothers of young children are exhausted and move slowly, too. I made the decision to once again, open my home to a Bible study for young women. I gave myself permission to intentionally plan a day of rest, the following day. The last session we had 20 women sign up for the study. God blesses me to know that in my weakness, and in my willingness, His strength is made perfect.
This is a new assignment for me, and it is hard. I believe that God has a plan for my life and this assignment is not a surprise to Him. I face a choice! I can rely on myself and feel like a victim, or I can trust that God is with me and will provide the strength I need. I can choose to see what lies ahead with dread, or I can choose to see what lies ahead as an adventure to master. I have experienced times in my life when the Lord has used challenges before me, to teach me. I choose to believe! The Bible tells me, it is for my good, right now, it just feels hard. God is putting treasured relationships in my path to walk alongside me. When I see these relationships as gifts, I feel His love for me.
Most of us may agree that it feels really good to be confident, determined and independent; but I am learning it feels even better to glorify the Lord by letting others be helpful; to listen and accept that their advice might be right and best for me. My life has been full of multi-tasking, now I can only do one thing at a time. I am finding value in being present and focused in the moment. Slow, which seemed a hindrance in the past, feels like it can actually be enjoyable. Parenting advice often suggests that we count to 10 before we react; I am learning to take a deep breath and look to Him.
It is my desire to be intentional, to be strong enough to live at peace, to live content. I know I can only accomplish this with God’s help. When negative or discouraging thoughts knock at the door of my heart, I need to pause and whisper for His help.
Dear Lord, thank you for slowing me down. Please help me not miss anything You are teaching me. Thank you for my husband’s support and encouragement. I want to learn to delight in the things that fill my days, even if they are fewer. Help me to be content and live gratefully.
Sherry Bitler: Founder of a local traditional Christian School, a home school cooperative school, and a summer program for children at a popular Christian Conference Center. She is spiritual mother to hundreds of young women. Challenged by her daughter-in-law, she began writing a blog, The Grateful Grammie, several years ago as part of her legacy to her grandchildren. She loves time with her husband of 47 years, their four children, their spouses, and twelve grandchildren. Sherry shares more about living with Multiple Sclerosis in this interview: When MS is Your Constant Companion.