I wrote this post over two years ago, and I came across it and realized this principle is ongoing for us all. I believe one of the greatest challenges and deepest joys comes from the fine art of gratitude…
Even when you’re suffering.
During the years that my daughter was sick, we learned together that gratitude is both a cherished and powerful part of living. We still live in this truth today. Read an old story, and take in fresh encouragement.
27 hours. That’s how long my daughter had been whining and moaning about the incessant tube that was taped around her face and neck and channeled through her nose down into her stomach. Still groggy and cranky from the anesthesia, as it always makes her someone she is not. I don’t like what the drug does to her. She is foul and angry and combative and sad. Until it slowly releases her sweet soul and she comes back the next day. I was sympathetic and attempted to comfort her any way I could, while monitoring her ph level and recording the time, and her food intake and activity level every 30 minutes. It was a long two days. I was tired and so was she.
In the big picture, this was really nothing. We have dealt with much more sickness and procedures and surgeries and longer bouts of misery than this. It was a short moment of time to assess healing ulcers and severe reflux. It would be over soon and we would be at the pool the following day. I kept telling her and reminding myself as well.
But by the last few hours of this struggle, my daughter’s moaning and crying got the best of me and I lost it.
“Don’t you know how blessed you are? Look at all you have in your life!! THIS will be over soon and we get to go about our active and joyful fun-filled lives! You know how many kids DON’T get to go on in a normal life? ENOUGH self-pity! You are FINE! Stop swimming in your pool of self-consumed agony and look beyond your world!”
Yes, I know she’s only nine… and maybe I went too far. But I often expect my children to act like grown-ups in my weak moments. I just do.
We get to the hospital to finally take the catheter out and set her free; she is quiet but still moaning. It’s a long walk through the hospital to get to the GI surgery center. The walk is always convicting and very sad. We pass the ER, the radiology labs, several clinics and all the countless sick and debilitated children going to and fro, throughout the long corridors. This path always pushes me in a new realm of sympathetic reality.
“Look around you my dear. JUST look at every child you see and take it in. (Nodding over to a girl in wheelchair with a breathing apparatus and tubes coming from every side of her body. Raising eyebrows to a small child screaming in a woman’s arms. Nudging my daughter to look at the deformed and very ill child in the stroller.)”
Her eyes grew big and sad and scared.
“Yes my dear, you are very fortunate.”
She nods conceding to the suffering she sees.
I put my arm around her and began my pastoral lecture:
“It is okay to feel badly about our circumstances. I get that you are miserable. I want to comfort you and make everything better. But I also want you to look beyond you, even in your despair. I want you to learn how to deal with your struggles and one way to do this is to realize your blessings. I know how hard it is to pull yourself out of the bad to see what is good. But I always tell you this every time you are sick, because I believe it has helped me so many times. In our suffering, we must find gratitude. And we always, always can do that.”
She got it. My little nine year old understood this concept, swallowed it down yet again, as I force it on her regularly. It may be harsh. It may be way out of her developmental league- but it is a truth and tough reality. There is always something to be grateful for in any situation.
And yet, it’s so much easier to coil up in our wounded world isn’t it?
A day later, I am convicted in my own lecture. How dare I pressure her to look beyond her pain and find gratitude when there are so many times I cannot? Yes, us mothers, we know how to function through sleeplessness and sickness and work schedules and headaches and stress. We always rise to the call because that is what we do. But here is the challenge:
Can we rise up out of our struggles and suffering and search for gratitude?
Or do we just push through and grimace, moan and cry through those difficult days…weeks…months.
There are times I want to do what my precious daughter did. I want to groan and sigh and swim in my own pool of self-pity. Suffering can consume you and often blind you to seeing all that is good.
Then I think of my favorite verse. And I breathe in reflections of all that is beautiful in my life, and slowly exhale gratitude…finding what is worthy of praise.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Phil 4:8)
Even though sometimes, I need a bit of time to get there… much like my daughter did.