By Nancy Virden (c)2021
Do you remember from Twenty Years of Thanksgiving Changes – the First Nine, the bold statement James made as recorded in the New Testament? “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds…” James continued, “…for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”
Thanksgiving Day 2010 was torturous. Deep in a major depressive episode, I missed my children terribly. For over 29 years, mental peace had depended on denial concerning my marriage and the hope that one day my abusive husband would love me. Now realization had come that despite his public words he never had loved me, and I lost the will to live. Three suicide attempts in the next 6 weeks were evidence of this utter despair. I do not recall being grateful for much except, as always, God himself.
Depending on my husband’s approval for a reason to live was a powerful habit. For five years mental health professionals impressed upon me a fresh biblical perspective of my worth and God’s unending love. Still, a veil of excuses for my husband’s behavior took more than five years to completely lift. No doubts about who God is, his goodness, or what Jesus accomplished on the cross entered my mind. Continuing to pray however weakly, this profound testing of faith stretched my perseverance muscles while I tried to learn how to place hope in Christ alone.
Having moved back home to Cleveland, Ohio only two months before Thanksgiving Day 2015, it was good being near my sons even amid major adjustments. My husband had filed for divorce and stayed behind in Pennsylvania. Gratitude for God’s presence and unfailing love through six painful Philadelphia years dominated Thanksgiving day.
An intense and intentional prayer process with a friend led to complete forgiveness of my dad and his disastrous parenting. No one knew this was his last holiday. God’s gift of forgiveness had come at just the right time and then, again. After a soul-saving conversation with the God of mercy, dad breathed his last. We held his funeral on Christmas Eve.
Joy saturated Thanksgiving Day 2017. The previous twelve months had included huge disappointments and humiliations. The worst episode I had ever experienced of G.A.V.E., a chronic disease exacerbated by stress and resulting in severe anemia, required four transfusions and temporary confinement to a wheelchair. However, my eyes were forced fully open to finally cut off all hopes and contact with my ex-husband. Obeying the leading of the Holy Spirit in August, I invited neighbors to a Bible Study in my home. Five women were coming each week (and still do!). America’s special day of gratitude found my heart singing over the peace that total freedom from an abusive relationship brings, and the great joy and glad purpose of leading neighbors through God’s Word.
Thanksgiving Day 2018 followed a winter of cancer (resolved with surgery) and a missing young cousin (eventually found safe). My ex-husband remarried in the spring. Shingles in the summer mingled with more hospitalizations due to the same stress-aggravated chronic disease. After nearly losing in July what was left of Always the Fight ministries, I finally listened while God walked me through a time of spiritual discipline using the book of Jeremiah and a bedbug scare. Dependency on humans instead of God had not yet fazed out completely. On so-called turkey day, God received glory for that year’s trials which had ended in spiritual growth and blessings. An inexplicable joy had not wavered the entire year, for which he deserved all credit. (More on 2018)
Thanksgiving Day 2021: It is now twenty years since 9/11 and that last familiar family Thanksgiving. What an amazing year it has been! My church allowed me to open a resiliency class for depression and anxiety. A book I finished last fall has received some attention. I became Ohio certified as a Peer Recovery Supporter. My first job interview went well and the follow-up interview is next week.
This year, burnout due to difficult people threatened my mental wellbeing until severe anemia landed me in the hospital again. The Delta Variant made me go back. Fatigue has given me time to spend with God in praise and prayer. One day he showed me without a doubt that stuff I own, no matter how useful or sentimental, is all temporary and means nothing. Reality is that heaven awaits me someday and none of this (as if I’d want it) will go with me. What I have been clinging to for a sense of security is not secure. Only God holds my future.
Now my house is for sale along with nearly everything in it to pay off debts, and I will be boarding elsewhere. This gives more freedom than one can ever understand unless they too let go of material possessions.
James finished his comment with this: “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” While perfection is unachievable, strong trust in God and faith in his hope alone will completely turn a life around. That is why I thank God for all he has allowed me to suffer. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds. For the testing of your faith produces perseverance and perseverance must finish its work so you will be mature, lacking nothing.” -COMMENTS WELCOME
Today’s Helpful Word
1 Thessalonians 5: 18
… give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
If you are feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here.
If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S. or go to your nearest emergency room. In the EU call 112. (For other international emergency numbers, go here ). Hope and help are yours!
Always the Fight Ministries (ATFM) has been displaying compassion for those fighting mental illness, addiction, or abuse since 2012. Nancy is the founder and voice of ATFM and openly shares her emotional resurrection from despair. NOTE: Nancy is not a doctor or a mental health professional, and speaks only from personal experience and observations. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.
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