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COVID-19 wrecked this MK's senior year, but she’s not complaining
May 2020

Nhaya Paden moved to the Philippines when she was 4. Her parents, Gilmer and Julie, serve with SEND’s Philippine Sending Council, mobilizing Filipinos to reach the unreached. 

While Nhaya was finishing up her senior year of high school in the States, COVID-19 entered the world and upended what should have been a season of great celebration. She turned 18 years old in April. Prom and the senior trip to Disneyland? Cancelled. 

Mom Julie was supposed to fly out from the Philippines to see her graduate. That didn’t happen. A full summer of ministry in the Philippines and the chance to lead a short-term team to another Asian country also have been cancelled.

In short, Nhaya has a lot that she could complain about. But she’s choosing otherwise.  

*** 

By Nhaya Paden — One of my favorite things to do is complain. This is kind of an embarrassing thing to admit, I will be honest. However, I don't think I'm alone in this. Half of the conversations I have consist of complaining about one thing or another. There is nothing that brings a group of people together faster than something that everyone can complain about. 

As someone who claims to be a follower of Christ, my deep-set habit of complaining about my inconveniences is something that simply is not a reflection of his character. By complaining about inconveniences in our lives, we are invalidating God's ability to provide for our needs. Essentially, we're saying that what he is, is not good enough. 

No one would blame me for complaining in this current situation. It’s almost expected. I almost made a list of my complaints, but I realized that once I started it, there would be no end. That's how it is simply because we live in a broken and imperfect world. For every one good thing, a hundred bad things are to be found. This is why attempting to find happiness, contentedness, and even peace is impossible to most people. The cold, hard truth is that there will always be things to complain about, regardless of how good your life is. The more you look for negative things, the more you will find. It's a vicious, never-ending spiral that pulls you away from God. 

I watched the movie “Soul Surfer” this evening, and it helped me articulate some of the thoughts I've had lately. “Soul Surfer” shares the inspirational story of teen surfing prodigy Bethany Hamilton following a shark attack that took her arm. Throughout the movie, Bethany struggles with her situation and all that has been taken away from her. She doesn't understand why God allowed her to experience what happened to her. She's angry and confused, which is understandable. Who wouldn't be upset if their entire life was turned upside down and inside out?  

Bethany has a change of perspective while on a mission trip to Thailand following the devastating tsunami of 2004. She is surrounded by a sea of people who have literally lost everything, and she realizes that she cannot compare the loss of her arm to the losses that the people she is serving have experienced. All of the sudden she can see all that God has blessed her with. It’s pretty incredible how powerful a change of perspective can be. 

Young woman looking over her shoulder in a field

There are a lot of times when I’ve felt like Bethany Hamilton did. I've always been quite the complainer, and a vocal one at that. In my mind there were so many things to complain about, and of course I had to let it be known that I was unhappy with all of them. Unfortunately for me, my parents were not going to have any of it.

My parents could see more than I could. My parents could see all of God's provision and blessings and things we had to be grateful for, and they could see the stark difference between what our family was blessed with and what those around us went without. So yes, every time I complained about something, I was reminded of all the people around the corner who didn't know where their next meal was coming from. I was reminded of what my dad's childhood looked like, and how blessed I was not to experience anything remotely resembling that. 

I will be honest, I used to despise that. I wanted to complain, but felt I wasn't allowed to complain because there were people who had it worse than me. My mindset was not one of gratefulness or thanksgiving, but one of begrudging recognition of the fact that I had it better than a lot of other people. 

Now that I'm older, I'm actually very grateful that my parents instilled that mindset in me from a young age. Not only has compassion grown from my reluctant acknowledgement of my blessings, but a budding mindset of thankfulness. I realize now that my parents weren't trying to guilt trip me into not complaining; they were teaching me to find the seemingly endless stream of reasons to be amazed by and thankful for our amazing God. 

Give thanks in all things graphic

Obviously it's difficult to constantly focus on things to be thankful for. It's a lot more work to find things to be thankful for because it goes against our nature as sinful human beings. But trust me when I say that when you start looking, you will always find things to be thankful for, no matter how small they are. I like to look back on my old gratitude lists sometimes. I usually end up doing more consistent lists during and after mission trips, but I love seeing the little things that I felt were worth thanking God for. I've made it a habit to incorporate things I'm thankful for into my prayers, or into my journals, or on sticky notes pinned to my wall, or into a jar filled with things I want to look back on and smile. I find that constantly reminding myself of what I have to be thankful for helps keep me from immediately complaining about something. 

My encouragement to you is to simply take a minute and try to look at your life from a different perspective. What is God teaching you in this difficult time? Look at the things you take for granted, and then look closer. You might find things to be thankful for that you never even thought about before. The past few months have been hard on everyone, and it might be difficult to see the silver lining in this whole mess. But perhaps the silver linings have always been there, you simply didn't know where to look.



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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nhaya Paden
Nhaya Paden moved with her family to the Philippines when she was 4 years old. As she graduates from high school during the COVID-19 pandemic, she’s learning to look for the silver linings.