What It’s Not

Have you ever had a day—or a week—when nothing went right? When Murphy’s Law was in effect and everything that could go wrong, did? I’m sure you have. We all experience times when we’re just waiting for the other shoe to drop. Even a natural optimist can begin to wonder when that little rain cloud seems to be just hovering over her head.

Our daughter Laurie and her family have been going through just such a week. It started small on Thursday. One of the kids pulled the curtains—rod and all—down, right out of the wall. No big deal, right? Those things happen with little kids. They were just dealing with that, however, when they found signs that a mouse had visited their couch. Yuck! That was a big deal for Laurie. Mice, rats, tarantulas, scorpions—all manner of nasty critters have invaded their home in Ecuador from time to time and it always freaks them out. Mice carry diseases down there and Laurie feels like she has to disinfect everything when she finds the telltale signs of a mouse in the house.

She was just dealing with that when an even bigger calamity happened. The younger kids had gone outside to play and were calling for their big sister Melissa to come out and play with them. Melissa will be fifteen in a couple weeks and is so good with the little ones and very willing to help with them. She started out the door to join them and somehow slipped on the step—and broke her leg.

Laurie called Fernando home from the Bible study he was having with a young couple to take Melissa to the hospital. They ended up having to go to two different hospitals to finally have their daughter taken care of. They had just walked in the door at home hours later with Melissa in a cast when the baby, Vanessa who is twenty months old, started throwing up and having diarrhea.

It lasted for hours. They were just beginning to think maybe they should take her to the hospital when it finally slowed down and she fell asleep around four in the morning. They worried—Vanessa had been sitting on the couch where they found the mouse droppings. Had she picked up something and put it in her mouth??? She seemed to feel a little better later, however, when she woke up, and although she had a couple more small bouts, by last night she had perked up and it seemed to be over.

Not quite. No sooner was Vanessa finally over it when Matthew and Mandy started in, and poor Melissa in her cast was beginning to feel sick. So much for the question about the mouse poop (thank goodness!)—it seemed to be just an ordinary virus of some sort if it was going through the kids one by one. But that was just the thing—with seven kids and Fernando and Laurie, was it going to hit them all? Laurie was already wading through a growing mountain of laundry and had had to scrub the floors several times when one of the little ones “missed.”

Well, sure enough, I called this morning to see how things were and Melissa, and now Fernando, too, had been up all night sick. Laurie herself is feeling bad and wondering if she is about to succumb. Only Sara, Gabi and Katie are left standing and able to chase Vanessa now that she is well. Of course, Fernando was supposed to teach and preach this morning, but praise the Lord, yesterday one of the men in the church had offered to fill in and was prepared if the need should arise.

I’ve been sitting here at home feeling bad for them all and wishing I could be there to help. They have been through so much lately and I know, because they are serving the Lord there in Ecuador and the ministry is going well, they are targets for the Enemy, Satan. He would like nothing more than for them to be discouraged and weak. As I prayed for the baby—and Laurie—though that first night, the thought came to me to praise God for what it was not. It was not chemotherapy that was making the baby throw up so violently. There was no cancer or some other terrible disease that was making the baby so violently ill. Other parents have seen their children suffer through much worse. In a day or two she was over it.

Praise God Melissa’s broken leg was not a bad one. The first doctor had said she needed surgery and a pin put in it but Laurie and Fernando had seen the x-ray.   They recognized that he was a shyster and took her to the second hospital where they said it was a simple “fissure”, put a cast on it and sent her home. Praise God for healthy children who can run and jump and play. In six weeks Melissa will be back to normal.

Praise God Laurie does not have to take all the dirty sheets and towels and pajamas down to the river bank to wash them as so many of the Indian women do. She has a washer and dryer. Praise God they are not all sick at once. Praise God they are not alone—Ivan volunteered to preach before they even knew that Fernando would be sick.

When we have days or weeks like this, it is easy to become disheartened. It is precisely in times of discouragement and weakness, however, that we should most be praising God! Psalm 42:11 says, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.” Our hope is in Him. He knows all about it. He is in control and there are His perfect reasons for allowing us to go through these trying times. David the Psalmist said in Psalms 71:14, “But I will hope continually, and will yet praise Thee more and more.” David knew what it meant to go through testing and trials but he said in Psalm 28:7, “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him.”

It is easy to praise God when everything is beautiful and going well; not so easy when it is not. The Bible tells us in I Thessalonians 5:18, “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” Paul and Silas praised God in prison! They had been beaten and whipped, thrown into the deepest, darkest cell with their feet in chains—yet “at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.” (Acts16:25) Not only did they praise God, but they did it loudly so that everyone heard them! What a testimony! In fact they were such a testimony that it ultimately resulted in the salvation of their prison guard and all his household!548481_263860493730592_1010457336_n

When we count our blessings, let us thank and praise Him for the good and the bad; for what has happened and what has not. Did that delay in traffic save us from an accident down the road? Did the financial loss we suffered save us from becoming independent of God? Did the discovery if one physical problem save us from a more serious one up ahead? It is by God’s mercy that we are saved from far more than we will ever know. Praise God for what is not. “Praise ye the Lord. O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.” (Psalm 106:1

Hebrews 13:15 says, “By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name.” In everything continually we ought to praise God—for what is and what is not! The next time you count your blessings, don’t forget to thank Him for what it’s not.

                                              Count Your Blessings

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed, When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost, Count your many blessings, name them one by one, And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care? Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear? Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly, And you will keep singing as the days go by.

So, amid the conflict whether great or small, Do not be disheartened, God is over all; Count your many blessings, angels will attend, Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

Count your blessings, name them one by one, Count your blessings, see what God hath done! Count your blessings, name them one by one, And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

                                         –Johnson Oatman, Jr.–

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