Yesterday I interviewed Gary Shepherd, the author of a newly released book titled Angel Tracks in the Himalayas. He’s a Wycliffe missionary responsible for translating the New Testament into the Magar language for that tribal people of Nepal.
Gene and I have known Gary for 27 years. In fact, we spent our first Christmas in Nepal in his home. I was pregnant with our first child then – so nauseous that I couldn’t even roll over in bed without getting sick. Gary’s wife Barbara cared for me, setting plates of soda crackers on the table beside my bed, and giving me hard candies to suck.
That was in December 1982. That was also the month Barbara began experiencing psychotic breaks, imagining things that were not real. One night Gary found her standing in an empty room flicking the light switch off and on. “What are you doing, Honey?” he asked. “The Communists are coming for us,” she answered. “I’m signaling the police on the hill.”
Barbara’s condition worsened despite counseling and medication. In December 1991, this woman who’d endured the rigors of pioneering missionary work and helped her husband translate and publish the NT in a tribal language ended her life.
I can’t fathom the shock and grief Gary and his two children must have experienced; I admire his willingness to talk about what happened. As he spoke, he shared a fundamental element of his emotional healing – giving thanks.
One day, in the midst of his grief, Gary read Psalm 50:23: “But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me. If you keep to my path, I will reveal to you the salvation of God.” Desiring to honor God in this situation, he began doing what it said. He looked for things for which to be thankful – the good memories he and Barbara had shared, for instance, and their two young adult children. He kept to this path, and trusted God to fulfill His promise to bless him.
Gary’s expectations were fulfilled and then some. His heart began to heal. He returned to Nepal several months later, and lo and behold, was introduced to a missionary nurse who shared his passion for the people of that country. They were married four months after their first dinner date, and they continue to partner in ministry to this day.
“Giving thanks in the midst of tragedy is a sacrifice that honors God,” said Gary. “When we put Him first and do as He says, the door is opened to experience His blessing.”
I agree. Giving thanks in the midst of tough times is a sacrifice. It’s not easy, but God enables us to do what He commands, right? And when we obey, He blesses. We can’t predict what form that blessing will take, but we can rest in the knowledge that He knows what’s best for us.
How about you? Have you experienced God’s blessing for giving thanks in the midst of difficulty? If so, we’d love to hear about it.