BY ROSIE WITTLEDER, GRACE ATTENDER
We face a lot of obstacles that keep us from experiencing gratitude...especially when we’re in a lot of pain or having a hard time. The more pain, the harder it is to experience thankfulness.
Right now, I’m experiencing a lot of growing pains in my life. As my therapist told me recently, “All transformation includes letting go.” Transformation requires saying yes to something new. And with every yes, there also comes a no. You can’t add something without compromising something else. So for me to experience transformation, I have to leave behind other things. And that’s hard because grief comes with loss.
Throughout these last few months, I’ve noticed it’s hard to feel gratitude. It’s easy to fixate on what’s happening right in front of me. I get a little tunnel vision and sometimes lose sight of the bigger picture. Partly because I have forgotten to remember. We are a forgetting bunch, us humans.
As I gain a little perspective in the midst of my discomfort, I remember a time in my life when I had to endure longer-term fear and anxiety. Thankfully, during this time of deep pain in my life, I was part of a sixteen-week group with eleven other women. The two women who led the group were therapists, so it was like group therapy or a discipleship group. And I had a band of women to help me get through a very difficult time.
At the end of that sixteen-week experience, the leaders asked us to choose a rock outside. On our rock, we wrote a word on each side. These two words represented what we experienced from our time together. The rock would serve as a “memorial,” something we would keep and see in our day-to-day life going forward. When we looked at that rock, we would be reminded of what we had been brought through and what we received.
That rock sits on my dresser. When I looked at it this week and read my two words – solid footing and resilience – it reminded me of everything I had experienced during those intensive sixteen weeks. I was brought through pain and debilitating fear and desperation. God sent the people I needed for that exact time and gave me tools I didn’t have prior to that.
I came out of that experience with these realities:
I have solid footing. I can do hard things and feel shaky inside, yet still find solid ground. I am not slipping and falling into an abyss of chaos or fear. I can find solid ground even amidst deep pain.
I gained resilience. I was pushed to a new level of what I could tolerate--I was beginning to tolerate the intolerable. Some of my worst fears became reality during that time, and I felt terrified. And somehow, I was able to get through and gain a kind of resiliency I hadn’t known prior to that point.
When I saw my rock this week, I thought, “If I could get through that, I can get through and tolerate this. What I’m experiencing now isn’t even a fraction of that.” It brought strong feelings of gratitude for how far I’ve come, and how God has kept me the whole way. Feelings of thankfulness spurred hope and encouragement in me.
Yes, I feel stretched now. Yes, I feel uncomfortable. Yes, I hate saying no to things so I can yes to other things. But seeing my memorial rock jogged my memory. God didn’t leave me then, and he won’t leave me now. I will receive grace, strength, and comfort. I will have what I need.
Cultivating gratitude while struggling? Yes, it’s hard. But it can be done. One way is through remembering.
Questions for Reflection:
What have we endured in the past? What have we been brought through?
What did we receive to get us through those hard times? What did we take away from those experiences?
Is there something physical we can create to remind us of the gifts we received? Something for us to look at and remember in the future?
Gratitude changes us on many levels. It gets us through hard times, with hope and perspective.
To read more of Rosie’s writing, you can check out her blog: sugarfreewritings.com.