If you determine to face your loss, torturous grief will begin to show up as delightful gratitude. After all, as J. R. Miller states in The Ministry of Comfort, “…love and grief grow on the same stalk…” We grieve because we loved. We loved; therefore, we should be grateful. Love is an incredible—albeit undeserved—gift.
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
If we are to give thanks in all circumstances, even my loss can be turned to gratitude. I’m not talking about a morbid or morose happiness over loss. I’m talking about deep and sincere gratefulness to God who is the giver of all good gifts (James 1:17).
I’m not saying this mindset or perspective is easy. It’s not. It’s a decision made in faith. And it’s a decision that requires a strong grip provided by grace.
“Here is one of the most beautiful fruits of grace—a heart that is content, more given to worship than demand and more given to the joy of gratitude than the anxiety of want.” Paul David Tripp, New Morning Mercies
Grace enables gratitude. Believe it and stand upon it. I did. Or better stated, I kept on doing it because it is not a one-time decision. You must keep at this grace-enabled-gratefulness.
And gratitude can be liberating.
As I approached what would have been my thirty-eighth wedding anniversary, I turned the anniversary of my wedding into the anniversary of my gratitude. Sure, it’s both—it will always be the anniversary of my wedding to Kim. I would never consider forgetting the gift of love God gave to us. But now, I was approaching two-and-a-half-years after losing Kim, and I decided to call this date the anniversary of my gratitude. As I release this entry, I am now at what would have been my thirty-ninth anniversary and nearing forty-two months since losing her.
I’ve learned something in my increasing years in life. Gratitude inspires gratitude. Grace-enabled-gratitude gives birth to momentum for a grateful heart. We are told to acknowledge God in all our ways. If we do so we are promised that God will straighten our paths.
“In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:6
Solomon sandwiches verse six with verses five and seven. He instructs, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). Then he warns, “Be not wise in your own eyes… (Proverbs 3:7). Trust and acknowledge. Do not lean on your own understanding, and be not wise in your own eyes. These things are not for the temporal mind.
Trusting the Lord through a long journey, facing your loss squarely, and acknowledging him opens your heart to healing—a path made straight in the turbulence of grief. A firm foundation of faith is exercised and strengthened.
“In circumstances for which there is no final answer in the world, we have two choices: accept them as God’s wise and loving choice for our blessing (this is called faith), or resent them as proof of his indifference, his carelessness, even his nonexistence (this is unbelief).” Elizabeth Elliot, The Path of Loneliness
Determine to choose faith, and gratitude is made possible. Even in the deepest pain I’ve ever experienced, my heart overflows with a good theme. Psalm 45:1 states, “My heart overflows with a pleasing theme; I address my verses to the king; my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe.” As I have deeply contemplated this long unwanted journey, I am not happy nor will I ever be happy about my circumstances—loss is painful and horrible; however, I am enabled to give thanks in my circumstances.
From now on, July 30 is my anniversary of gratitude. To quote Paul David Tripp again, I move more toward “…the joy of gratitude than the anxiety of want…”
“He loves us just as truly and as tenderly when he takes away the things or the beings we love as he did when he gave them into our hands.” J. R. Miller, The Ministry of Comfort
Note: July 26, 2022 is my four-month anniversary with Amanda. And she is a gift and a treasure!