From Pity to Praise: being thankful when it doesn’t feel like there’s much to be thankful for

If you’ve seen Facing the Giants, you probably remember the moment when the football coach of the Shiloh Eagles, Grant Taylor, said to his players, “if we win, we praise Him. If we lose, we praise Him.” It was an extraordinarily inspiring phrase that encouraged the players to praise God despite the outcome of the game. And when they still praised God in a loss, it ended up being a victory for them!

Armed with this movie knowledge, I leaned over my sick calf this past week praying for her healing with the ultimate statement that I would praise God whether He brought the healing or not. When she began to get worse, I of course was discouraged, but I held on to the hope that if I promised to praise God regardless of the outcome, He of course would heal her! I mean, He is a God of LIFE, right?

I trudged to my barn in the cold yesterday more and swung the door with anticipation. I felt the color wash from my face as I approached her lifeless body. I shook her gently and choked out her name. Nothing. Tears began to stream down my face as I realized all my efforts to care for her and save her died on a cold Wednesday morning.

I know I said I’d praise Him, but how was I supposed to praise the Lord of Life when He chose not to give life?

You see, this calf was special to me. Her mother was my absolute favorite cow. But this summer she suddenly became very ill. I over sought her care for several weeks and begged God to heal her. Finally the vet was able to make it out to see her and we were told there was nothing we could do. She was in so much misery, the best thing for her would be to put her down. I had to bury my favorite cow. Throwing dirt over her body was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But I took comfort in the fact that she had just had a beautiful heifer calf. This calf then held the spot in my heart that her mother once held. I reserved the mother’s barn number for this calf when she would one day be in the herd of milk cows. She could carry on her mother’s legacy and keep my heart from falling all the way apart.

When this calf died yesterday, all I had left of her mother died too.

Now, I know you’re thinking, yeah that’s sad, Rachel, but cows die every day. It’s apart of the business. Nothing to be this worked up about. That’s true. I logically know it’s true.

But I have been feeling an overwhelming sense of loss lately. The two that stand out are the loss of freedoms such as financial and time that I so desire and the loss of my identity as I once knew it and a longing for what I hope it to be that seems just out of reach. Losing a calf so precious to me really brought this unbearable feeling to a head.

How could I praise when I feel so crushed? How could I be thankful when it didn’t seem there was much to be thankful for?

I began to feel pity on myself and cried out to God, “why does everything I love die!?” I wallowed in that for a solid day. My heart sank into my toes as the hours since her death past. I didn’t not think I had it in me to give praise. My life was not turning out nearly as well as a movie would go.

But as I was alone in my thoughts this morning, my mind went to the apostle Paul. He had been through much worse and yet he was “content in everything.” He praised God whether he was in jail or free. Nothing stopped him. His perspective was different from mine.

So I stopped. I stopped thinking how unfortunate the circumstances in life currently were. I changed my perspective from that one of pity to one of praise.

I praised God that I still have many other friendly cows to love on. I thanked Him that I have money to pay my bills every month and put a little in savings. I gave glory to him that most of my obligations that take a lot of my time are ones that I enjoy doing. I rested in the fact that my identity is in Him and I do not have to worry about the feeling of attack on it. And I praised God that even if I no longer have cows to love anymore, I always have a Heavenly Father to love and to be loved by.

I always wanted to be an extremely grateful, content person, but most of the time I never really felt it. But if there’s anything I learned from this loss is that thankfullness is not a feeling. It’s an action you do whether you feel it or not.

Live or die, I praise Him.

“Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength.”

Philippians 4:11-13

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