When my friend Kim’s baby boy, Hudson, was born five years ago this month, he seemed perfectly healthy until the day he was supposed to leave the hospital. That was the day Hudson quit breathing. Hospital staff were able to revive him, but he had several successive spells and he spent Thanksgiving in the NICU alongside parents on pins and needles awaiting their little one’s prognosis. Thankfully, Hudson made a full recovery and today is a spunky five-year-old. And thankfully, this trial has forever shaped Kim and her husband, Nathan.
Now every year on Thanksgiving, Kim and Nathan think about families who just want to be close to their babies in the hospital. Because this was them five years ago. They remember with grateful hearts how family members showed up that day with a full Thanksgiving dinner for them. And this year, they wanted to repay the kindness they received. With the help of friends and family, they delivered a Thanksgiving feast to families and medical staff at that same KC-area NICU that cared for their baby boy five years ago. I feel blessed that this family has allowed their struggles to change them and that they are now an encouragement to my family and so many others.
We can be thankful for our struggles because they’re making us into who we were meant to be. “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trails, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment.”
We can be thankful for our struggles because sharing them with others can open a door to deeper, richer relationships. When you reveal just how much you don’t have it all together, people respond. My sister-in-law, Maddi, calls it ‘letting people go second.’ First I share my stuff, then you share yours. Perfection isn’t relatable. Our mess is.
We can be thankful for our struggles because they help us put our life in perspective. When Kim and Nathan got to bring home their baby boy, they were even more full of gratitude for his life and health because of their struggle. Similarly, as my family goes through a trial, we evaluate the things that are most important to us. Things not on our list? THINGS. Status. Wealth. Our dream home. Things on our list? Faith. Relationships. Character.
We can be thankful for our struggles because they allow us to develop spiritual disciplines. In the past, I haven’t enjoyed fasting, to put it mildly. I was convicted that I SHOULD, (Jesus said ‘when you fast… in Matthew 6:16), but I didn’t really want to. My husband started incorporating it as a practice in his spiritual walk several years ago, but I’ve made excuses. As a foodie and our family’s main meal prepper, I’m constantly plotting in my head what’s coming next. It’s super challenging to put aside those thoughts of food! And it’s so hard to not eat when feeding my kids one million snacks a day. But recently struggles have drawn me to my knees, to my face on the floor, and with God’s help, I’ve been able to focus on Him in prayer and let go of my preoccupation with food.
No doubt, walking though hard times is no fun. It’s challenging to not look forward to health, to certainty, to better times. But today at the NICU I saw firsthand the good that can come from our struggle when a family that has walked through hardships can go back and encourage others.
This Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for the struggle.