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Sometimes Gratitude Hurts

Have you ever tried to be thankful in the midst of grief?

It hurts.

When you stand, face grief and loss head-on, and say “I chose to find something in this to be thankful for,” the pain is physical, visceral, wrenching.

Looking back, what I’m most thankful for this year is that it’s over. 2010 has been a year of extremely low lows. Of painful failures as a wife and mother. Of faith torn apart, picked over, and slowly rebuilt (not completed, either). Thankfully, we’re near the end and nearing a new beginning.

Each year on Thanksgiving, my family writes thanksgiving lists. My parents have kept our lists over the years, and reading those oldies is always entertaining. It was fun, when I was young and life was easy.

This year, our children were old enough to write their own lists. Helping them gave me time to think about mine. Our older son took awhile to warm up to the idea, but once he got started made it a contest to list the most. Our daughter is just learning to write, so her list was short and sweet. The youngest illustrated his and told me what each scribbled represented. I confess to an actual warm fuzzy when all three kids listed “mom and dad” and their siblings on their own, without any prompting.

Then I sat facing my empty paper. Last I wrote a list like this was just five weeks after our daughter died.

The pain and difficulty isn’t that I come up empty-handed when I look for gratitude. I have much and thank God for it.

Even our daughter. She was expected to live four days. She lived 8 years and 8 months.

The pain is in the looking, in the deliberate choosing to be grateful, to write it where we can all see it, to fight against evil. It is shaking a fist at suffering and clinging to hope. It is resisting what can appear to be an overpowering opponent. And in battles, we experience pain.

I shouldn’t be surprised that the fight springs tears. That my heart hesitates to engage, that my flesh would rather hide from the battle. David knew this.

My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my
heart and my portion forever.
But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds.
(Psalm 73:26, 28)

But David fought. And he wrestled for hope by remembering what God had done. He wrote and sang his thanks as he faced deadly enemies and crushing discouragement.

So this Thanksgiving, I’m joining in Multitude Monday, a community who choose to fight evil with gratitude.

1. A God who gives us strength to fight against evil, for joy.

2. Grace – undeserved second chances (and third, and fourth, and seventy-times-seven)

3. my husband, faithful through the worst circumstances

4. Ellie and the 8 years 8 months she spent with us

5. My son and his willingness to say “I wanted to say ‘soft answer’ to you this morning, Mommy” — we agreed we would help each other speak kind quiet words, not loud hurtful ones, and he made a first tentative step today.

6. My daughter’s bubbling laughter at our one-eyed puppet

7. My youngest son’s uninhibited energy

8. Hot coffee with pumpkin spice creamer

9. Baking cookies with the kids

10. Sunday afternoon naps

More to come each Monday…. and click the banner below to join others choosing gratitude.

holy experience

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