When you gather around the Thanksgiving table will you reflect and say “I’m grateful that the past year has brought financial difficulty,” or “I’m thankful that I’ve experienced loneliness,” or “I’m so grateful that my family members have not seen eye-to-eye,” or “Isn’t it just wonderful that we have a venomous societal discourse right now?”
No, you may not want to classify those kinds of struggles as blessings.
It’s easy to be thankful for the things that are going right in our lives and for family and friends with whom we share good times. But struggle, uncertainty or pain? We’d rather not think about them nor see them as blessings. Smile and please pass the gravy, thank-you-very-much.
Yet often, we do experience struggle, challenge and uncertainty. Can we be glad for tough circumstances? If we pay attention, we realize that while struggle isn’t what we would call fun or rewarding, the resulting lessons can and often do lead to personal growth. However, growth will likely only come if we see the struggle as a refining lesson. If we choose to linger too long in anxiety or pain, we run the risk of getting stuck in suffering and letting the struggle stunt us.
By all means, let’s list the good things happening in our lives and be grateful. That practice is crucial to cultivating more goodness and joy. But as we give thanks, let’s add a struggle we’ve experienced over the past year and talk of how it has helped shape our compassion for others, our grit and fortitude, or how it’s made us appreciate the good things and people in our lives that much more. Let’s talk of how family struggle has or can bring us closer. And, instead of being divided at the dinner table over politics or differences, let’s honor one another and listen with our whole hearts and minds, with the intent of learning something new. After all, the ability to see through another’s eyes and walk in their shoes is an invaluable gift that can bring more peace, grace, love and understanding into the world.
I am thankful for many things: each new day, the beauty of nature, the peacefulness of my home, my children, friends and extended family, and also the times God has picked me up after a fall, made me stronger and gave me new insight. The experiences have brought me more compassion and understanding for others who endure hardship. They have also brought me closer to God. They have shown me that He is always eager to lead me to a more refined version of myself. He helps me to break past old barriers so that I can better serve Him and the world.
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” – Romans 5:3-5