Here's my offering for this Sunday. It's a story that inspires me to be thankful in all circumstances, and I hope it will inspire you.
"Why must I live like this?" she muttered, snatching her Bible, teaching materials, and pillow. "This is the pits."
Sandra's husband Ron was in seminary, and every weekend found them driving 120 miles, one way, to the small church he pastored.
During the two-hour drive, Sandra found herself deep in the pit of discouragement and self-pity. Life isn't fair, she thought. I have to work all week at my job, and on weekends I have to work at Ron's. She managed to spend a few minutes reviewing her lesson before taking the wheel so Ron could look over his message one final time.
As the car rolled into the graveled drive, Sandra swiped at her hair with a brush and plastered on the smiling face she knew the folks would be expecting.
It was exceptionally hot as they made their way into the tiny church that morning. The church had no air-conditioning, which only deepened Sandra's ill feelings.
At the end of the service, Ron and Sandra stood at the front door greeting church members as they departed. Ron shook each hand and offered an uplifting comment, while Sandra groaned about the intense heat.
In a few minutes, the parking lot emptied. Ron and Sandra collected their things and drove another twenty miles for lunch at a member's home. It would have to be a quick meal, since Ron had to drive yet another thirty miles to lead an afternoon service at the nursing home.
On the drive to the nursing home, Sandra prayed the pianist would show up.
"Why are people so undependable!" she growled, knowing she'd have to struggle through the only three songs she could play. There was no time to brood about it, however. The nursing home residents were straggling in. Sandra greeted each one with a fixed smile and the same question: "How are you?” She didn't bother to listen to their replies until Danny came in.
Danny, a young man in his early 20's had been severely injured in a car accident some years back. His days were now spent in an adult "high chair" with wheels. With little control of his limbs, Danny was a pitiful sight.
Taking Danny's chair from the nurse, Sandra pushed it to his usual spot in the back row. "There you go, Danny," she said, looking at his face. "Good to see you. How are you?”
Danny’s answer was garbled, as usual. Smiling, Sandra nodded and started to walk away, then stopped. She felt drawn to Danny. Perhaps the Lord would have her listen to this young man.
"Not today, Lord," she begged. "We're already running late. . .” But still, she sensed God pleading with her to stay. So, pulling up a chair, Sandra said, "I'm sorry, Danny. I couldn't understand what you said. Try it again."
Struggling to form words correctly, Danny forced out something that sounded like, "Icanoco . . ."
Try it again," Sandra coaxed.
"Icanoco . . ."
Over and over, Danny tried to say something, but to no avail.
"Let's do one word at a time," Sandra suggested.
Danny started with, "I."
Sandra repeated, "I."
After numerous wrong answers, Sandra said, "Can. I can.” This brought a smile. "Now what, Danny?"
Danny emitted an "n" sound, which Sandra quickly interpreted as "not.” "Okay. I cannot," she said. "You cannot what, Danny?” Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Ron was impatient, but still she knew she had to hear this one out.
Danny labored. Then, almost intelligibly, he said, "Come."
"I cannot come?" Sandra asked.
"Of course you can, Danny," she assured him. "Look, you're already here. What do you mean you can't come? To the service?"
Danny's head waggled from side-to-side. "No," he said, "I cannot come pla . . .” But then his words were lost again.
"You cannot come play?" Sandra asked, groping for understanding.
No, that wasn't it either. After a while, Sandra realized Danny was merely answering her question, "How are you?” His answer was simple: "I cannot complain."
Suddenly, she understood why the Lord forced her to listen to Danny. She'd spent her entire day complaining, when she had so much to be thankful for.
"Danny's words should have been mine," she says. "Now, when life caves in around me, and I'm tempted to feel sorry for myself, I remember Danny and his message that day: 'I cannot complain.'"
Adapted from the book, Silver Linings (Pacific Press), by Dayle Allen Shockley.