CRACK. I was fumbling around for some bagels to throw in the toaster early yesterday morning when the kitchen went white. Strobe-light white. Light is silent (according to my non-scientific opinion), but this light felt loud. I blinked at the toaster for the next couple of seconds, philosophizing over the implications of a silent flash. Was that heat lightning? Can heat lightning be that bright? Does heat lightning preclude thunder within a certain proximity? Can lightning even occur without thunder? Thankfully the absentee thunder arrived and prevented my mind from wandering to any more obscurely existential questions. Said thunder also reminded me that I’d burned up valuable seconds that I should have been using to get to our bedroom.
We’ve learned from experience that I have around 60 seconds between seeing a light trigger and having a seizure – only enough time to find a place to sit or lie down. I’d just wasted an indeterminate number of these seconds pondering the implications of noiseless lightning, when what I’d really needed was to get very far away from all the condo windows in case the rogue lightning strike turned into a rare NorCal thunderstorm.
I shielded my eyes with my hand and groped down the stairs toward our bedroom. Somehow I made it to the bed and tugged off my glasses just before the seizure started.
Between that seven-minute seizure (possibly my record for 2020), the heat wave that impacted Hillside’s second week of outdoor church services, and the pandemic anxiety that manifests in so many aspects of all our lives, the “Verse of the Day” from my Bible app this morning seemed particularly relevant:
“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.” ~James 1:2-3
My health status often makes me feel like a magnet for “troubles of any kind,” so I have to remind myself that Ivan and I have been spared many trials that other people experience daily. I do excel at viewing my troubles as “opportunities,” though. The problem is that I don’t view them as the kind of opportunities James was writing about.
Unfortunately, I tend to view my troubles as opportunities for complaining rather than rejoicing. Counting yesterday’s seizure (and ensuing migraine), or the weekend’s stifling heat as opportunities for joy did not cross my mind. True, it crossed my mind today as I read those verses. But that’s just my point. Offering “retroactive praise” is relatively easy, since I can wait until I’m feeling physically and emotionally stable before I compliment God on a finished product I can already see. Giving thanks when the physical and emotional odds are against me and I can’t see God producing anything good yet? That is a skill I desperately need to cultivate.
So while I doubt San Jose has more spontaneous thunderstorms in its immediate future, and while I hope our heat wave relents in time for Hillside’s services next weekend, I’m positive that God will unleash other surprises to keep honing my ability to praise Him in the moment. Retroactive praise is important, but present-tense praise is essential for developing that all-important character trait, endurance. That character trait might only feel good once I’m surveying my life from the finish line, but I’m grateful that God continues providing opportunities to consider troubles “great joy” – whether I like those opportunities or not.