Ten Thousand Truths

In my gratitude journal, you will not find the words “back pain” or “dead air conditioner in the mini-van.”  And even though I have read (and re-read) the Beatitudes, I am in a season of mourning deeply over the advancing dementia of a dear friend — and I’m not feeling the least bit blessed by it.

Clearly, my perspective needs adjusting, and, according to author Mark Yaconelli, I am not alone.  As a society, we are intolerant of anything that reminds us that we are not in control, and, instead of viewing failure, disappointment, loss, or frustration as gifts which open our hearts to the caring ministry of others and the heightened spiritual insights that come from a closer following, we become disoriented, cynical, shame-filled, or resentful toward our difficulties.

Even so, The Gift of Hard Things with its gritty and delightful truth-telling makes no claim to spiritual alchemy — there are no magical words that will convert suffering into joy.  Even so,  Yaconelli’s  stories offer a thin place where the gap between my desire to avoid suffering at all cost and God’s desire to use it to deepen my capacity for love and generosity stops feeling so wildly uncrossable.

I was captivated by Mark’s prayer service disaster story:  his careful preparation, his thoughtful attention to every detail, and his thorough marketing of the new campus ministry.  How could it be that not one college student — not one! — ever attended that service?  The disappointment of a ministry-crash-and-burn flies in the face of all my pat answers about God.  Mark’s too:

“Deep down, we believe if we pray, follow the Ten Commandments, and work hard, God will grant us a successful life.”

He admits,”My life has never matched my expectations,” and even though the prayer service continues three years later (sans college students), the experience was primarily a lesson in spiritual poverty and an invitation to examine his expectations for their source:  culture? family? personal need?  It is only through a long re-learning that we may begin to sit in gratitude for what has been given, but it is the path away from disappointment and resentment.

Henry Ward Beecher, 19th century social reformer, wrote:

“God sends ten thousand truths, which come about us like birds seeking inlet; but we are shut up to them, and so they bring us nothing, but sit and sing awhile upon the roof, and then fly away.”

Without a doubt, a goodly portion of God’s ten thousand truths come in the form of suffering.  I miss the point of the song He is trying to sing into my life when I concentrate on simply getting through the trial without looking for the lyrics of healing that are carried on the melody of affliction.  The aim of The Gift of Hard Things is for readers to find in the gift of difficult people, in the blessing of disappointment, or in the bracing realization of our own brokenness the reality of being met in the midst of that frailty with a strength that is not our own.  It is only in this strength that I am able to rejoice in the truth that God is fluent in the language of lament.  His psalm-singers have given us the lyrics, and the human condition provides the material.  By faith, we add our stories to the narrative flow, and by grace we are used of God to reveal that the very things that catch us off guard have actually been placed in our path with a purpose.

In choosing to believe the truth of this, my story is altered, because even when my circumstances careen out of control, I still get to choose “whether [my] helplessness draws [me] toward or away from prayer.”  Mark goes on to say that we get to “choose whether our grief deepens our empathy or sours us into resentment.  We get to choose whether to allow the difficulties we have suffered to break or expand us.”  With this wisdom, I am encouraged to point my divining rod toward Hope, and to hang on for the journey of discovering grace where I least expect it.

//

This book was provided by IVP Books, an imprint of InterVarsity Press, in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Michele Morin

Michele Morin is a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for over 25 years, and their four children are growing up at an alarming rate. Michele loves hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop her in her tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family. She laments biblical illiteracy and advocates for the prudent use of “little minutes.” She blogs at Living Our Days, and you can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

58 thoughts on “Ten Thousand Truths”

  1. Oh Michele, I am so very sorry to hear about the misty path that your dear friend is traveling on. I can’t begin to imagine what your grieving is like, this long good-bye. I am sad for you and for all those who love her.

    May she continue to sense Jesus’ winsome, calming love in her dear friend …

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  2. Well, it is a bummer that the air conditioner in the van doesn’t work, but I am saddened to hear that you have lost your friend to dementia. We have a dear family friend whose wife is in advanced stages too. I often pray that God will comfort her in the darkness and the confusion. My hope is that she still sees that Great Light and feels the peace that comes from her friend Jesus. But it’s scary to see someone you love struggling with such hardship, isn’t it?

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  3. Michele, I’m sorry for the grief of dementia in your friend’s life and how terribly difficult it is experience as a loved one. The topic of hard things being a gift is one the Lord has given me personal experience in and much passion for. I’ll be looking this book up and remembering to pray for you and your friend as I read it.

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  4. Excellent book review! Difficult for all of us. I’m so sorry for your friend, but I know you will be there for her. May I suggest Cindee Snider Re’s book: Discovering Hope–Beginning the journey toward hope in Chronic Illness. This is a great new Bible Study and you may have seen Cindee’s photography on Chronic Joy Facebook.

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  5. Michele, I love your insightful review of “The Gift of Hard Things” and the title of your post, “Ten Thousand Truths” from the great quote by Henry Ward Beecher, 19th century social reformer, wrote: “God sends ten thousand truths, which come about us like birds seeking inlet; but we are shut up to them, and so they bring us nothing, but sit and sing awhile upon the roof, and then fly away.” Such a great visual for the way God’s Word speaks His Truth to us as we are meditating upon it…sitting for a while, and singing upon the roof of our hearts, until we open our heart and let His Truth take root in our heart and in our mind as we face the daily issues… that I have now begun to list in my “one thousand gifts” gratitude journal…what a wonderful way to remember and apply this Truth…thank you! Many blessings to you!

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  6. Dear Michele! I was just thinking yesterday of the Scripture that tells us to “count it all joy”. Oh, my, I have had a hard time doing that lately. Sometimes the spiritual warfare is SO intense and the trials seem to come so thick and fast, we can barely catch our breath, let alone, be joyful and grateful for it. God help me. I am convicted by your words. Thank you for consistently and gently challenging me on this Christian journey. Sending you lots of love and gratitude, sweet friend. 🙂

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    1. I had the same response to Mark’s book. Here’s another quote: “The tragedy in life is not necessarily the suffering that life brings, but the way we ignore, defend against and shut ourselves off from the then thousand truths, the ten thousand beauties that seek to heal, awaken and free us to the life we long to live.” Isn’t that also convicting?

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  7. Michele, I am so sorry for what you are experiencing with your friend. It is such a sad thing to note as you are aware that one day, they will not remember at all. We went through both my mother-in-law and father-in-law having dementia pretty much at the same time. My MIL started first but my FIL quickly caught up. It is amazing that they both enjoyed watching familiar preachers on TV even when they no longer responded to much else. May God give you all you need to be there for your friend. Praying for you this afternoon.

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  8. Michele, this sounds like an amazing book. I’ve been grappling with those situations where God doesn’t seem to move. Where my friend suffers at the hands of a loved one, and He doesn’t seem to be acting. I have to believe that He sees, and He is moving . . . behind the scenes. I’m praying for her salvation and that God will reveal Himself to her in ways that will draw her toward Him.

    I’m so thankful that we get to choose how we respond to the hard that life throws our way. Thank you for sharing this book reivew.

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  9. This sounds like a great book, Michele. It’s really hard to grasp the good in hard things sometimes, isn’t it? I’m so sorry about your friend. My heart aches for you and for her. I pray that Jesus will be her constant Comforter and your Refuge as you deal with this loss, too. I really identify with this line – “I miss the point of the song He is trying to sing into my life when I concentrate on simply getting through the trial without looking for the lyrics of healing that are carried on the melody of affliction.” So beautifully said. Blessings and hugs to you!

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  10. Hi Michelle, Thank you for this. I want to read this book; my expectations of success in ministry have led to disappointment at times; that is, until I realize that it’s not my success, and it’s not my ministry, and it’s not me, thankfully! I appreciate you and the ladies that you minister with, and to, and the gifts that God has given to each one. He sees, and knows, and that is all that matters! God Bless you. I love the quote from Henry Ward Beecher; I had never heard it before!

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    1. Bev, thanks for reading and sharing your own experiences. Disappointment seems to go hand in hand with ministry — and even Jesus experienced disappointment with the disciples. Of course, He did not let it drive Him into sin (as I do!). I loved that quote as well, so I just had to share it as part of the review. Good to hear from you.

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  11. What a challenging–but important–topic. I know I sometimes think of God like a vending machine: Insert good works and out will come blessings. I know this isn’t accurate, but sometimes I need a reminder from resources like this!

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  12. He brings us through trials, and He has so many purposes for them. One thing I noticed in the Bible with Jesus is that He had compassion on others. Sometimes I wonder if He brings us through trials simply to do a work of compassion in us. I know I do not always hold compassion for the suffering. Which brings me to your friend. Sorry to hear about her, and prayers for you both.

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  13. Sounds like a book I definitely need to read, Michele. I love your words, “… the reality of being met in the midst of that frailty with a strength that is not our own.” I want to rely on God in that way–being so aware that it is His strength and not my own that is getting me through every trial. Very eloquent, thought-provoking and soul-stirring, my friend!

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  14. What if your only purpose in life is to smile at the grouchy old man in the grocery line so when he leaves the store, he has a better attitude to receive the gospel message from someone else and it changes his life? WHAT IF? Would that be enough?

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  15. So sorry about your friend, Michele. That is so hard. This sounds like a much needed book. I’ve been beset by quite a few hard things. Most recently, two weeks ago TWO of my kids lost friends to auto accidents. So hard to watch them go through that. But God redeems all things.

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  16. Michele,
    “God is fluent in the language of lament.” Love this and oh how true. It’s taken me a long time to try to embrace my suffering, but like Paul with that thorn in his side, my trials and difficulties keep me running back into God’s arms and that’s truly where lies the sweet spot in life. So for the gift of God’s unfailing love and comfort and for learning compassion and empathy for others, I am learning to embrace this thing called suffering. Haven’t mastered it and don’t expect to…but am learning. Wonderful post!
    Blessings,
    Bev

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  17. Michele, I’m so sorry about your friend. That kind of mourning can certainly color our days. I’ll be thinking of the quote you shared for some time. I do think we 21st century Americans believe that life should be rosy if we’re doing all the things. Great review.

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  18. Wow. This seems like one of those books I would want to underline through and through. Profound and makes me think. I shared today. Thanks for this, Michele! I am praying for your friend and also for you, sweet sister in Christ. You are a blessing. xoxoxo

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  19. Thank you so much for this. It reminded me of 1 Thessalonians 5:18 where we are told to give thanks in all circumstances. I’ve been going through a rough spell and I certainly haven’t been thankful. It’s definitely something I needed to be aware of and wasn’t.

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  20. I’m sorry to hear about your friend, Michele. Watching a loved one deal with dementia or Alzheimer’s is hard. I watched my mother in law go through it and knowing there was nothing we could do to help her really hit me hard. I’ve added this book to my cart, it sounds like I need to read it as I journey through my study on faith. Thanks for sharing this review with Thankful Thursdays.

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  21. I’m sorry for the suffering your friend is going through and the grief it brings to you and other loved ones. This sounds like a great book. It’s definitely not easy to see suffering as a gift- it’s easy to fall into thinking that if we are trying to follow God we should somehow be entitled to an easy life, and then to resent it when it doesn’t work out like that- but God can use the hard times and work good from them if we’re open to let him.

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  22. “…being met in the midst of that frailty with a strength that is not our own. It is only in this strength that I am able to rejoice in the truth that God is fluent in the language of lament.” Yes, a strength not our own that only comes from God. I have found that strength many times just when I need it. He is there in the suffering and He gives a peace that I can’t manufacture on my own. Thank you for sharing this, Michele! The book sounds like a good one. Blessings to you! I’m your neighbor this week at #GiveMeGrace.

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  23. Michele, I’m so sorry to hear about your friend. We just learned of a friend in a similar situation and it’s heart-breaking. This sounds like a powerful book. Thanks for sharing it on Mondays @ Soul Survival. Blessings, my sister!

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  24. “Deep down, we believe if we pray, follow the Ten Commandments, and work hard, God will grant us a successful life.” Personally, I do still believe this is true, the kicker is, God’s idea of a successful life and our idea of one are often two different things …

    Prayers for your friend descending into the mists. May she still realize she has a heavenly Traveler at her side constantly.

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  25. Enjoyed these words of encouragement. Thanks for sharing them on the loft. I too have found myself concerned with my reaction to “not having it all together” – good thing He knows what He’s doing. Blessings, Chris

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