The date November 10, 2015, is imprinted in my memory. I forget a lot of things but not this one. I remember the day I had spinal surgery. The quickly planned surgery changed the course of my life.

But it was two years ago, not yesterday. “Get over it,” I tell myself. “It’s not that big of a deal.” Well in fact it was a big deal! We moved countries and uprooted our lives after this surgery. And yes, two years later, the scar on my spine is sore and I still have a daily, chronic pain. There are still certain activities, especially with my children and re-entering employment that I cannot do (or am limited in). It’s important for me to pace myself—considering my schedule and how it will affect my pain. There is still a long list of medication I take (complete with the side effects) and co-payments that never seem to end. Yet I have another category of things I’ve received through the tumor and surgery—and that is a host of blessings.

This list is much longer: I have deeper convictions about relationships and steadfast faith. I have a different perspective on what is important in life. I continue to learn the power of gratitude and of finding joy in all circumstances. I have more depth and trust in my relationships with my husband, kids, close family, and friends. I remember those who visited and fought through the trials with me. We received endless amounts of love and support. We also received generous gifts. When we moved and relocated to Massachusetts from Spain, we were in need of countless things. The list of things we received through the love of the Christians is amazing. We received a car, Christmas gifts for our kids, endless amounts of household items, physical training, a shoulder to cry on, and so much more.

I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” – Philippians 4:10-13

Paul understood that the secret of contentment was Jesus Christ. He knew what it was like to have physical wealth and recognition and what it meant to be in prison. He was able to write about joy and gratitude while imprisoned for his faith because of Jesus. He no longer lived for himself. Therefore, even while imprisoned he was full of joy and gratitude.

During the last few months most of my prayers have been about joy and gratitude. Every time I’m reminded of November 10, 2015, and realize it’s now been two years, my first instinct is negative thinking. I think, Yes, I can walk now but I’m not who I was before all this happened. I was counting down the months to the two year mark, and now I’m here still living with chronic pain and restricted in certain areas of life because of it.

That’s when I must stop, look around at all I have because of the love and generosity of others, and most importantly because of the love of Christ.

Even through our darkest moments God is ready to be our strength. And when we reach out to accept his power and strength we allow God to turn our trials into moments of thanksgiving.

In the coming articles we’ll look deeper at what the Bible says about being thankful and how to train our minds to turn moments of disappointment and defeat into moments of gratitude.