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Thanks for the Misery

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October 30, 1999

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Some stories can stand dusting off. Like the one about a grandmother who took her little grandson to the beach. They were having a good time until a huge wave came in and swept the boy out to sea. She fell down on her knees and pleaded to the heavens, "Please return my grandson -- that's all I ask!   PLEASE!!!"

A moment later, lo and behold, a wave swelled from the ocean and deposited the wet, yet unhurt child, at her feet. She checked him over to make sure that he was okay. He was fine. But still she looked up to the heavens angrily and said, "When we came he had a hat!"

We expect her to give thanks for this extraordinary thing, which happened. We're taught to show appreciation for that special act of kindness or consideration, which is given. Yet, can we also say thanks when all is not so well? And better yet, should we?

A few years ago, someone stole my wife's purse. In the hassle of going about the business of helping her to replace her lost cards and identification, I recalled the words of author Matthew Henry. Henry, too, was robbed. Yet he found the grace to give thanks about his situation. He said, "I give thanks that I have never been robbed before; that although he took my wallet, he did not take my life; that although he took everything, it was not much; and finally, that it was I who was robbed and not I who robbed."

He may as well have said, "Thanks for the misery!" Except that Henry was not miserable. After all, it is difficult to feel miserable when we are busy giving thanks.

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