A Different Kind of Thankful

Mike Fitzgerald, Thankful 13 5K, Nov. 26, 215

Of all my blessings, I am the most grateful for my trials. I just heard you ask, “Are you crazy?” Yes, crazy enough to see my trials in a redeeming light.

It seems like I have about a dozen trials going at any given time (don’t you, too), but I’ll only mention one here in particular. I have an illness—actually, a spectrum of impolite symptoms, all related to a single illness—that I have been working with since 2001. Never mind what it is. It’s my “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7). You probably have one, too: that daily, gnawing reminder that you are temporarily mortal.

I have plead with it, wrestled with it, fled from it, begged it to leave, pounded it with mortar fire, all for nearly 15 years, and yet I often wake in the morning, and there he is again, “the messenger of Satan” (2 Corinthians 12:7), back for round 5,343. I’ve come to the conclusion that he’s not leaving me anytime soon. Yes, he’s very devoted, whether I like it or not. That said, while I won’t call him a friend, I will venture to call him a partner.

Yesterday, Thanksgiving morning, against all reasonable odds, I ran a 5K, in spite of my partner coming along. We just had to work together this week to make this happen. We each have to make compromises and yield ground to each other. It’s a marriage of sorts.

Over the years, I’ve discovered—by prayer, the guidance of the Spirit, and good health care—ways to manage this partnership: careful diet, regular exercise including running, of course, supplementation, various medications, and timing. This disease almost always has my attention, but that attention keeps me pondering, searching, wondering, praying, and planning. A good place to be.

What if you and I didn’t have any afflictions of any kind to keep us humble? What sort of people would we be if we spent our time moving between satin and velvet pillows? I think we’d all atrophy, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We’d all be spoiled, spineless wimps. I don’t think God wants any of us to be wussies. We’re His children, for heaven’s sake. He wants us to grow up to be like Him.

Yesterday’s race was my seventh official race since I began running again last year. Four 5Ks, one 6K, a 10K, and a half marathon. What seemed impossible at one time is now possible again. It’s a miracle.

It seems like I’ve always needed a challenge, an adventure, to look forward to and to work towards. I have an illness that gets in my way (plus a very busy schedule) so it’s a bit of a steeplechase. But I beat 15 runners yesterday for the third spot in my age group, and I finished in about the top 20 percent overall in a field of 1,200 runners. Such achievements, as modest as they seem, were unthinkable a few years ago. My time wasn’t my best, but I feel good about it. I am already plotting ways to crush my next race.

Christ said that His “strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). One thing I have a testimony of is that I’m a perfect candidate for that promise. I can’t make myself perfect, not alone. No one can. I need help. Tons of it.

My trials have taught me Who to turn to for help. With His blessings, you and I can make wonderful things happen. Sometimes incredible things. That’s why, above all, I’m grateful for my trials. There’s just no other way to grow in a lasting way. It’s the “bomb” of blessings.