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Finding the Good in the Bad

with Barbara Rainey | November 6, 2009

Do you praise God even in the bad times? Barbara Rainey talks to parents about training children in gratefulness not only by their example, but through story telling. Today Barbara shares a story about the Puritan preacher Matthew Henry.

Do you praise God even in the bad times? Barbara Rainey talks to parents about training children in gratefulness not only by their example, but through story telling. Today Barbara shares a story about the Puritan preacher Matthew Henry.

Finding the Good in the Bad

With Barbara Rainey
|
November 06, 2009
| Download Transcript PDF

Dennis:  Giving thanks for discomfort, how often do we give thanks for something that isn’t comfortable?  Finding the good in the bad, many times I don’t.    Being thankful when I’m betrayed.  I can tell you that is an act of faith for me to give thanks for a friend who has betrayed me.  Giving thanks when no rescue happens.  These are all disciplines of faith that we can learn.

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, November 6th.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey and I’m Bob Lepine.  We’ll talk today about how we learn those disciplines of faith and how we help our children learn them to produce in them a heart of gratitude.

Welcome to FamilyLife Today thanks for joining us.  I brought a book in here that I wanted to show to your wife who is joining us again on FamilyLife Today.  Barbara welcome back to FamilyLife Today.

Barbara:  Thanks, you know I like books.

Bob:  Yes, I do.

Dennis:  She brightens up the room, Bob.  I mean you’re nice to look at, but honestly…

Bob:   Yes, let’s be honest.  I was at a conference awhile back and a pastor’s wife came up to me and she said, “I want to give you a book.”  She said, it’s for kids, and I was glad that she explained she was giving it to me not because she thought I needed it, but because I could maybe share it with others.  The book is called, Be Kind, Be Sweet to Everyone You Meet: A fun way to learn manners and counting.  

And she just went on to say, our kids have to be taught kindness and manners and being other-centered.  So she wanted to come up with a book that taught them numbers.  Here’s number six and number seven and number eight, number eleven – give thanks always in all that you do you’ll be surprised at how glad it will make you. 

And she says here are some good times to write thank you notes.  When you receive gifts on your birthdays or holidays, when you go to someone’s house for dinner, when someone brings you ice cream when you’re sick or anytime.  And then she quotes Ephesians 1:16, “I’ve not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.”  She said, “I’m just trying to help kids learn manners, but help them learn the habits of the heart related to that.”   So I told her I would pass the book along to you.  Here it’s your copy; you can read that to your grandchildren.

Barbara:  I’ll do that.  It’s very cute.

Dennis:  Yes, you know when you were talking, Bob, I was thinking about a couple of things that happened to me recently that illustrate this and to share the one story, I have to give a little background.   Barbara and I were speaking at a YPO conference, Young Presidents Organization, but anyway, one of the speakers at the conference was Coach K, coach of Duke Mike Krzyzewski. 

Anyway he was speaking and he told a story of how he had grown up in a home where his mom as a single parent had cleaned hotel rooms.  He talked about the sacrifices his mom made so that he could go to college and today he could be successful.  And he talked about the impact of that as a coach as he travels all across the United States and stays in hotel after hotel. 

He said I look at these ladies who clean these rooms differently because my mom was one of them.  He said I always try to say thank you and express appreciation to them and to the point of your book that you just showed us here.  Be kind to them because they’re human beings that probably at great sacrifice are cleaning those hotel rooms to make ends meet. 

I heard that story and you know how God will use a story like that and kind of impact you, well that did and ever since I’ve tried to express more appreciation to the people who serve us in the public arena.  The other day I was at a Target store and I was coming out of the men’s room and the lady standing at the door of the men’s room holding it open had a garbage can in front of her and she was about to push it into the men’s room to clean it.  

I paused and I looked at her and I said I just want to thank you for your work.  The men’s room was clean and tidy and fresh and I just want to say thank you for doing a great job.  She looked at me and she said thank you and we passed and that was all I said and I walked on out toward where Barbara was standing and there was a young man, I’m not sure where he was from, but he was Asian. 

In broken English he said, that was remarkable.  I said what?  He said, what you just said to that woman, that was remarkable.  He said why did you do that?  I said, well she serves us and she cleans the restroom and we’re all served by various people around us who make a difference in our lives and I just think we need to express appreciation to them for their service. 

He said, are you in the military? Are you in the service?  I said, no.  He said, are you a Christian?  I said I’m a follower of Jesus Christ, yes.  I said that’s what true followers of Christ do, they’re obedient to Christ and they have a heart for people. 

He goes, yes, but that was different.   That was from the heart.  You’re a good man.  I talked to him, for I don’t know, close to ten minutes it was really an interesting conversation in that, first of all he noticed, but then secondly that he would stop me and want to interact with me.

I think as a culture, this is why these series of broadcasts in this month of November are so important and why we’re talking about gratitude.  I think we have had a coarsening of America in the midst of our masses and our twittering and our facebook posts and our emails we don’t write hand written letters like you are talking about here at the beginning of the broadcast.  We don’t pause to say thank you to people who serve us in the public arena who seldom have anyone say anything to them. 

And I think in our families today, one of the great needs that we have is to take a step back and ask how are we training our children?  How are we modeling for our children how to be kind to people and how to express gratefulness. To have an attitude of gratitude for those who serve us.

Bob:  We probably ought to start with the modeling before we work on the training, don’t you think?

Dennis:  I think so.

Bob:  And Barbara, one of the things you’re hoping parents will do with the new book that you’ve written which is called, Growing Together in Gratitude, is to have an opportunity to explore and to investigate their own lives, reading stories of people who were grateful in very difficult circumstances, and then asking the question what about me? 

It’s a question that we don’t want to just ask our kids, but we need to look at our own lives.  Are we grumblers?  Are we complainers, because as we’ve said many times, the natural predisposition of the human heart is a selfish predisposition, gratitude is the antithesis of that.

Barbara:  That’s right.  And just as that story that Dennis was sharing that he heard impacted him, and he never forgot it and then following that it’s influenced his actions towards those who serve.  The stories that we have in this devotional I hope will do the same.  I hope that there will be at least one out of the seven that will lodge in your child’s heart and mind.   And they will ponder that and they will think about that and it will remind them in their own life, in their own circumstances to give thanks because all of these stories are stories of gratitude. 

They are all stories about people of faith who express thanksgiving and gratefulness to God for what was happening in their lives and some of the situations were positive, some were negative some were hard some were unbelievably difficult and yet they all chose to give thanks, and hopefully as your children hear these stories, they too will be influenced by them and they will remember and want to change their attitude into one of gratitude.

Dennis:  George Barna has written a new book and in it he talks about what’s taking place in families and he basically says we’re losing the battle in the family because families are too busy.  They’re too busy to train their children and they need tools and they need help in training children to be civil and treat their brothers and sisters, which is a good place to start, with civility but beyond that into the marketplace their friends and how to be kind and how to care for each other and not just think of ourselves.

Bob:  You mentioned the story from Coach Krzyzewski what caused him to look differently at the cleaning woman was his own mother’s experience.  When we have a change in perspective that’s what can move us from grumbling to gratitude and when our perspective on any circumstances changed when we can believe that God is at work, when we can know that God is good and that all He does is good, that perspective will change how we view the circumstances around us.  I mean think of Job who said, I didn’t come with anything, I’m not going with anything, blessed be the name of the Lord.

Dennis:  And his story reminds us of how to respond to circumstances that aren’t nice, that aren’t easy.

Bob:  One of the stories you tell in the devotional is about Matthew Henry and they’re probably a lot of our listeners who have Matthew Henry’s commentary at home, but they don’t know anything about Matthew Henry. 

This is actually Day Two of the devotional, Finding Good in the Bad.  Ephesians 5:20 says, “Always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  You start with the story of an eight year-old who you said we will call Amy, who wrote in her diary, today I forgot to brush my hair and my watch almost broke.  My brother goes around the house screaming and bothering me.  I can’t not take it anymore.  That’s how she wrote it, is that right? 

Barbara:  Yes, that’s how she wrote it.

Bob:  I almost feel like running away.

Dennis:  Haven’t you ever had one of those days when you can’t not take it anymore?

Bob:  A no good, very bad day?

Dennis:  Yes exactly.  We’ve all had them.

Bob:  But I can’t run away because I simple have no place to go.  Darren is a pain, at school Mr. O’Neal picks Vern all the time; it’s been a bad day.  I’m glad nothing will be rong in heaven.

Dennis:  Those aren’t typos in Barbara’s book, that’s just the way she wrote it.

Barbara:  Yes, sweet little Amy, eight years old, wrote that in her diary.

Bob:  And you’re not divulging Amy’s identity.

Barbara:  No

Bob:  Well, you go on to write, we have all had bad days, sometimes we have several in a row and often our bad days are simply full of nuisances like Amy’s little brother or a driver in front of us who is going so slow that we are late for an appointment, or the grocery store running out of the one item we needed for dinner, the vacuum breaks, our favorite t-shirt gets lost, the cell phone drops calls, a neighbor complains about where we put our trash cans or its pouring rain again and the kids are stuck in the house all day. 

Inconveniences and inconsiderate people can make for bad days, but then you write, think back for a moment is it possible God is using the slow driver in front of you to protect you from a wreck?  When you lose a valued possession, might it be God’s teaching you a lesson in contentment.  When someone in your life is being difficult could God be giving you an opportunity to pray and see what he will do?  Proverbs 16:9 says, “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.”  Are you willing to look to the good that God intends in something that may seem bad?

Dennis:  Now, before you go on with the rest of the story about Matthew Henry, that last question is a great question.  Reread it again.

Bob:  Are you willing to look for the good that God intends in something that may seem bad?

Dennis:  One of the most oft repeated scriptures that is given to someone who is going through a difficult time is Romans 8:28.  “And we know this, that to those who love God and are called according to His purpose, all things work together for good.” 

Genesis chapter fifty, Joseph says, “What man intended for evil, God used for good.”  This is a theme of scripture.  God calls us to look beyond the circumstances of today and look to Him who’s working all things together, but it takes faith to make that work.  That’s what parents are trying to do here. Parents are teaching their children how to walk by faith.  That is the Christian life; you can’t live the Christian life if you don’t walk by faith in God.

Bob:  Well, and the story of Matthew Henry illustrates that.  He was a puritan in the late 1600’s and like little Amy he once wrote in his diary about something bad that had happened to him. 

One day while walking in London, he was robbed by a couple of men who jumped him from the shadows of an alley, and being robbed is hardly an everyday nuisance, much more unsettling, much more of a personal violation and it leaves somebody feeling vulnerable and frightened.  Matthew Henry probably felt those things, but what he wrote that night was very instructive.  He wrote, let me be thankful, first because I was never robbed before, second because although they took my purse, they did not take my life, and third because although they took my all it wasn’t very much.

(Laughter)

Barbara:  I like that line.

Bob:  And fourth because it was I who was robbed and not I who robbed.  Now that’s a great perspective on a difficult situation.  I don’t know that many of us would sit down at night after a bad thing happened and express that kind of gratitude for things that we take for granted. 

Dennis:  I want to review what he gave thanks for.  First, that he was never robbed before.  You could live a lifetime and never be robbed.  Secondly, that although they took his purse, they didn’t take his life.  Now that’s an interesting perspective itself.  Third, because they took everything he had and it wasn’t much.

(Laughter)

Dennis:  Somebody else might look at it, they got everything.

Bob:  Yes

Dennis:  They got everything.  But it wasn’t a whole lot.  And finally, that he wasn’t a robber.  That he was the one who was robbed but that his vocation was not robbery that he had been redeemed.

Bob:  I think he knew that because of indwelling sin he could have just as easily been the robber.  And as you wrote this devotional guide for families it was with the thought in mind that we can cultivate that habit that when things happen whether its, you didn’t get to brush your hair and your brothers a brat or you get robbed.  What’s your response going to be?  Are you going to go toward God or are you going to go away from God? 

Barbara:   Well that’s the whole goal and purpose in the devotional is to provide something for parents that can help them train their children.  I think so often as parents we’re overwhelmed, we don’t know where to turn, we don’t know what to use, we want our kids to be grateful, but we don’t know how to get there. 

And so the goal in these stories is to help you as a mom or a dad, as a couple to engage your children in stories of great faith that will inspire them to believe God, because it is a choice that they will have to make.   We can’t make the choice for them.  We can teach them to be grateful but they have to choose to be grateful and hopefully these stories will inspire our kids to make choices of faith and to express gratitude on their own because that’s the ultimate goal. 

Dennis:  Life just keeps coming at us in various flavors and forms and I look at the different things in this seven day devotional that Barbara has written and what she is calling us to do, giving thanks for discomfort.  How often do we give thanks for something that isn’t comfortable? 

Secondly, is finding the good in the bad.  What we just read about, Matthew Henry saw it.  Many times I don’t.  Third, is being thankful when I am betrayed.  Yes, I’ve been betrayed.  I could tell you that’s an act of faith for me to give thanks for a friend who has betrayed me.  Fourth, is being thankful for handicaps.

Barbara:  And all of us have them.  We tend to think of handicaps as something pretty dramatic or severe, but all of us have handicaps of one kind or another.  We may not be quite as quick as someone else, or quite as sharp intellectually, or quite as talented as someone else, we are all limited.  We need to see those limitations as the way God has designed us and give thanks for the way He has made us as an individual, knowing it’s for His purposes.

Dennis:  Yes, Day five in your devotional is about being thankful for providence.  I like this one because if you don’t believe God’s in charge, I don’t know how you can give thanks.  If this is a random bunch of molecules, why would you want to give thanks?  Who would you give thanks to?  Randomness? 

Day six, being thankful for deliverance.  Day seven, giving thanks when no rescue happens.  That does happen.  There are times when your prayers go unanswered and it seems like God has hung you out to dry and life is just tough.  It’s not a matter of losing your cell phone or your wallet or something going bad in your day, it’s something tragic, something that is harmful, something that is devastating in your life.  How can you give thanks in those things?  We need coaching in these matters.   These are all disciplines of faith that we can learn.

Bob:  It’s really a matter of perspective as we’ve said.  Do you have an eternal perspective of a loving God who is in charge and is in control or do you have a temporal perspective of randomness as you talked about?  When you have an eternal perspective then when things go wrong, because they will, you will find your hope and your comfort in God.  I’ve come back from traveling and Mary Ann will say how was the hotel?  And like you, I’ve stayed in some nice hotels and like you; I’ve stayed in some not so nice hotels.

Dennis:  You even picked some hotels for me.  You’ve put me in

(Laughter)

Bob:  We were trying to save the ministry some money.  When I put you in.

Dennis:  I hope you saved a lot of money. 

Bob:  But you know you come back and you go how was the hotel?  I can get just like anybody else and go well the towels were thin and the sheets were scratchy and the TV flickered. 

Dennis:  I don’t think this place you put me up had any carpet.

Bob:   The reality is.  I had a bed.  I had a roof.

Dennis:  Yes, there was a bed in this one.

Bob:  I had running water.  So it’s a matter of perspective.  Yes, the apostle Paul says, I’ve learned how to be content with plenty and how to be content with not so much.  And he wrote it living in a pit in the ground. 

Dennis:  What’s your favorite quote by the guy who talks about counseling his soul?

Bob:  Oh from D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, yes he says we need to do a whole lot less listening to ourselves and a whole lot more talking to ourselves rather than just griping and grumbling as we listen to our soul we need to counsel our soul and tell our soul, why so downcast, put your faith in God, counsel our soul.

Dennis:  Yes, and that’s what we’re trying to do here is counsel your soul and I want to encourage you, the month of November has enough days left to get this devotional and start going through it and take the rest of the month to exercise a faith muscle and learn about gratefulness, thanksgiving and train your children.

Bob:  Yes, and we’re hoping everyone will jump in and make this the theme for the month of November at their house and in fact, the devotional which we just got done.  In fact we haven’t had a chance to get it into Christian bookstores or out to Amazon or anyplace else.  What we’re doing, though, is we’re making it available to any listener who calls us or who goes online and requests it. 

All we’re asking is that you make a donation of any amount to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  Whatever you can do, just make a donation and we’ll be happy to send you Barbara’s brand new, seven day devotional called, Growing Together in Gratitude and you can use it with your family this year leading up to Thanksgiving. 

If you go to our web site, FamilyLifeToday.com and you want to make your donation online, just type the word GRATITUDE in the key code box on the online donation form so we know you would like to receive this devotional or call 1-800-FLTODAY, make your donation over the phone and just ask for the new Gratitude devotional and again we are happy to send it out to you. 

We appreciate whatever you are able to do to help the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  We are listener supported and so those donations are what help cover the cost of producing and syndicating this daily radio program.  We appreciate your listening and we appreciate your partnership with us and helping to cover those costs. 

Again the toll-free number is 1-800-FLTODAY, the web site is FamilyLifeToday.com.  Let me also mention that in our FamilyLife Today resource center we have copies of Barbara Rainey’s Thanksgiving book called, Thanksgiving: A Time to Remember.  If you don’t have one of those to read the Thanksgiving story with your family, either on Thanksgiving Day or in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, you can order from us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. 

Interestingly we’ve talked to some folks who have ordered multiple quantities of this book and they use it as a Thanksgiving present to share with family members or to share with co-workers.  It’s a great way to present the story of God’s faithfulness to the pilgrims and in the founding of America with friends and relatives.  You can order either a single copy or multiple copies of the book again on our web site FamilyLifeToday.com or give us a call at 1-800-FLTODAY and we’ll let you know how you can get the book sent to you.

With that we’ve got to wrap things up for this week.  Thanks for being with us, hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend and I hope you can join us back on Monday.  In fact we’re going to have the results for you on Monday.  You’ll meet the winner of the National Bible Bee competition that is taking place today in Washington, D.C. and we’ll introduce you to the winner on Monday.  Hope you can join us for that. 

I want to thank our engineer today Keith Lynch and our entire broadcast production team on behalf of our host Dennis Rainey I’m Bob Lepine.  We will see you Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.  Help for today.  Hope for tomorrow.

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