~by Julia Roller
A stomach flu recently made its way through our family. One Friday my younger son, the next Friday my older son, and last Thursday it was lucky me.
Everything looks a little different when you’re lying on the bathroom floor. And while I do sometimes find myself wishing I had cleaned the floor a little better, normally the things that take up a lot of my attention during a typical week don’t even register at all when I or one of my children is sick. Things like unanswered emails, unplanned parties, whether the permission slips are signed and the homework completed and the soccer uniforms and school clothes are clean, all those daily to-dos just fall right off the radar.
Illness has a way of boiling things down to their basics. It’s like an extreme simplicity practice.
When I’m lying on the bathroom floor, it’s just me and God in a way that is rarely true in my everyday life. And although I sometimes do ask God to help me feel better or at least calm the roiling sea in my stomach, often when I’m sick, all I can think to pray is Thank you thank you thank you.
It sounds strange, I know, but being knocked down in that way helps me remember to be really grateful for the general good health we enjoy, for the fact that I have a job that allows me to be with my boys when they need me, for our home and the fact that we have enough food, and for my wonderful, supportive husband who maneuvers like crazy in order to keep things going when I have to tap out.
Am I really thanking God for the stomach flu? Surely that’s not exactly what is meant by 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “In everything, give thanks.”
Yet I often return to Catherine Marshall’s words in one of my favorite books, Something More, where she relates how God asked her to praise him even in the middle of tragic circumstances. She felt God say to her, “’Obedience means turning your back on the problem or the grief and directing your eyes and attention toward Me.’”
Then God asked her to make a list of every situation in her life that she would like to see changed and then offer praise for each one. Marshall protested, “’Lord, I can see praising You for bringing good out of all these things, but I still don’t understand how I can praise You for the bad things. Doesn’t that make You the Author of evil?’”
God replied, “’I am Lord over all—good and evil. You start praising. I’ll supply the understanding’” (p. 19).
I’ve found this to be tremendously powerful guidance. At the very least, thanking God for things such as the stomach flu brings all my other blessings into stark relief. And frankly, I find it reassuring to have my task described so simply: You start praising.
I can do that.