For a Grateful Heart, Remember Your Losses
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted (Matthew 5:4).
If you take time every day to count your blessings, good for you. Much positive psychology research confirms the healing power of making a brief daily gratitude list. Jesus opened the Beatitudes by blessing the grateful, the ones who know and celebrate that all they have comes from the generosity of a loving God. But he followed it with this blessing on those consumed not with what they have but with their loss.
More than a counterpoint, Jesus’ blessing of those who mourn suggests a way to deepen gratitude. For if you count only the blessings you find on the sunny side of your memories, you may miss the richest blessings of all. As you count your blessings, remember your losses.
Remember from time to time that friend who listened to your fears, that sketch you drew that embodied your sadness, that story you heard that let you know that you are not alone in your loneliness. No gift is more sacred.
Happiness without suffering will never know joy. Joy comes with the full range of life’s flavors, the sweet with the bitter. The best way to pray is to be yourself in the presence of the Holy, and you cannot be yourself without the full mix of laughter and tears.
Your life started with loss. Settled in that womb, resting in its comforts, you had no idea what light looked like, how the splash of cold water feels, the sound of unmuffled shouts. In an instant, you lost that whole peaceful world and entered a very strange one of glaring lights, cold splashes, and strange noises. Some believe we live our entire lives longing to return.
Losses punctuate our lives, and contrary to conventional wisdom, the little ones count. The C on the test for which you studied so hard, the friend’s strange and sudden distance, the keepsake that goes missing – these losses count. While we must not wallow in the sadness, we must respect the ache lest we fail to respect the pain of our major losses, the deaths and injustices and failures.
God does not put our pain on a scale. We do. And when we do, we too easily refuse the love of God who respects our sufferings, whose motherly, suffering love reaches so wide that she suffers with the child who lost her toy and the one who lost her father.
Even as you count your blessings, remember your losses and how you made it through them. One of the strangest, most gracious ironies of faith is that Christ seems as likely to show up with a loving hand in the painful stories as in the happy ones. Probably more so, in fact. Perhaps we should expect that of a crucified God.
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