For about a year I’ve been looking for every-day gifts, the little (and not-so-little) things that with familiarity I take for granted and stop seeing. Ann Voskamp hosts a link-up every Monday for those who are doing the same. She has challenged readers to see the gifts in what she calls “the hard graces” – those things that hurt and on the surface appear to be the opposite of a gift.

I have to be honest with you. This is hard. Good, but hard. Counting every-day gifts isn’t a miracle cure for depression or pain or brokenness. I can’t bring myself to thank God for bad things, though I can and do thank God for the good things that come out of the bad.

Elli's headstone at Christmas, in the snow

  • I miss my daughter, especially during the holidays, but I can thank God for new empathy. I can thank God for the way her life and death connect me with friends who have sick children or whose children have died.
  • I can’t thank God for my son’s physical issues, but I can thank God for the things my son does that my daughter never did. I can thank God for middle-of-the-night snuggles for comfort after a scary dream, and for falling asleep cuddling him.
  • I can’t count depression as a gift, but I can count a gift the deeper understanding of Job, Naomi, and David. I am thankful for medicines and vitamins and sunshine and the unconditional love of a spouse no matter how bad I feel (or act).

To me, it is a great disrespect to call something bad “good.” It minimizes the real suffering and the ongoing permanent loss experienced by those of us to whom bad things happen. (And let’s be honest – no-one gets through life without something bad happening.) I respect greatly those who can look at their pain and thank God for it. But I also respect those who can’t, but who recognize ways that God redeems those bad things and brings good out of them.

It is arrogance in the extreme to identify one of those good things that came from bad and say, “See? That is why the bad thing happened.” I don’t believe we will ever know the fullness of the why, not in this life. Though good things came in and through the brokenness of my daughter’s body, I will not say that those things are why she was born into a broken body. I dare not. God alone knows why, and one of the lessons of the book of Job is that God doesn’t tell us why.

This doesn’t stop me from sobbing “Why God? Why????” when life hurts. It doesn’t stop me from hating how broken the world is, and how broken our bodies and our inner selves are. But the not knowing will not stop me from fighting against that brokenness and doing what I can to heal and mend and bind together.

Maybe what God wants us to do with our pain is to see it for what it is, and work against it.

I love this song by Shaun Groves. It has become my prayer in the brokenness. (He recorded it for another blogger, but we can all eavesdrop!)

Kingdom Coming for Sophie at from Shaun Groves on Vimeo.

Oh God, what do we see and hear?
Your kingdom coming
Oh God, what do we see and fear?
Your kingdom coming

Let it come to us
Let it come through us

‘Til the sword is spared
And the bread is shared
‘Til the dying’s done
Let your kingdom come
‘Til the rich ones give
And the poor ones live
‘Til the weak are strong
Let your kingdom come

Oh, God, what do we pray down here?
Your kingdom coming

Let it come to us
Let it come through us


Mercy come, justice come
Healing come, peace, Lord, come
Your will be done through us on earth


Oh God, what do we need down here
Your kingdom coming

Words & Music by Shaun Groves © 2011 Simplicity Street Music/ASCAP

Counting #608-623 of 1000 gifts with Ann today.