In this month of Thanksgiving, I have decided to do a short series of articles called “Thankful Thursdays” in which I will focus on four things that have been particularly encouraging to me this year in spite of my ill health and emotional ups and downs. When I considered what I should write about, it occurred to me that there could be nothing more perfect than the four things we declare at the end of the Apostles’ Creed: the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. No foursome of blessings could more accurately capture what I am thankful for this year.
The communion I share with the Body of Christ has never meant more to me than it does at this moment in time. As I struggle each day to overcome my physical limitations, I am strengthened by the prayers of my fellow believers. I find it odd that strangers should take time out of their days to remember my condition and pray for my healing, yet I have received such kind words not only from family and long-time friends, but also new friends and acquaintances around the world.
I long every Sunday to make it to church, but even when I do, I am often in such a physical state that I have some difficulty concentrating and must shuffle off as soon as the service is done to go home and rest. I am reminded of the words of the Psalmist: “These things I remember and I pour out my soul within me. / For I used to go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God, / With the voice of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival.” (Psalm 42:4) I may not have been leading anyone in a procession, but I was very involved in the life of my local church body, and to be cut off from that at times has been a real loss.
Nevertheless, in those moments when I experience sweet fellowship with other believers, it is a source of real joy. I am grateful to have been able to keep up with one Bible study, where we have recently been considering the topic of family worship. My husband and I have begun taking this practice more seriously in our household, and it has helped to strengthen my faith and my connection with my husband.
I am reminded of something that Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote. “It is easily forgotten that the fellowship of Christian brethren is a gift of grace, a gift of the Kingdom of God that any day may be taken from us, that the time that still separates us from utter loneliness may be brief indeed…It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren.” How true have those words seemed to me this year! In that fellowship, I am pointed to Christ, and I find the strength to persevere.
As I am often housebound, God led me this year into a new kind of community that exists online. This is in many ways a poor substitute for the local body of believers, yet I cannot deny that it has had a positive impact on my faith, even as I have sometimes been accused of spending too much time on social media. (No argument there, and I am trying to get better.) Even as my social life has become more limited in a physical sense, it has taken on new life via the wonders of technology. I am so thankful for the relationships I have formed this year with Christians from various denominations and backgrounds, many of whom have built me up in my faith.
I would now like to offer a few words of thanks to specific people. Thank you to…
- My father and my husband, who as the patriarchs of our family prayed over me that the Lord would bring healing to my body.
- My mother, who has made the drive down to Ohio more than once to encourage me and help with practical needs around the house.
- My mother-in-law, who will text me Bible verses and other encouraging thoughts to remind me of spiritual principles.
- My pastor Joe Godwin, who called me early on in my illness to offer words of prayer and encouragement, and the church staff, who sent me flowers that brought a smile to my face.
- The other members of my small group Bible study, who have frequently asked after my health and mentioned me in our prayer time.
- My friend Aimee Byrd, who has kept up with all my health updates and done everything in her power to encourage me, though we have never met in person.
- The other members of my Particular Baptist discussion group, who not only let me be their queen bee, but also lifted me up in prayer.
- A long list of Twitter friends including Brad Mason, Deering Dyer, David Bancz, Rachel Miller, my “cousin” “NewGeneva”, Emily “Supermommy”, Michael Goff, Ben Woodring, Coleen Sharp, and really a whole bunch of other people who I now feel terrible for leaving off this list.
- The crew at the Council of Google Plus podcast, who had me on to discuss suffering and had some beneficial things to say.
- The congregations of Olivet Evangelical Free Church and The Lakes Church in the Muskegon, Michigan area, to whom I do not belong, but who nevertheless have prayed for my healing.
- Every other relative, friend, acquaintance, and complete stranger who, as a member of the Church, has offered me support and encouragement during this difficult time.
The Apostle Paul tells us, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.” (Romans 12:10-13) I am grateful that many of my fellow Christians have taken these verses seriously this year and extended grace to me when I have been less able to serve myself. I am indeed thankful for the communion of saints.
All scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, copyright The Lockman Foundation.
 Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Life Together. Translated by John Doberstein. (New York: Harper Collins, 1954), pg. 20.