I've heard it said before that if our hearts are full of gratitude, that leaves little room for wallowing. I think there is some great truth to that. If you're like me, then perhaps there are times, as you reflect on your current life the missing pieces tend to sting your heart a little more than at perhaps other times. I know when I am busy I don't often have the time to reflect on the things I do not have. But sometimes, in the quiet moments when left with my own thoughts, it's easy to feel a little dejected or sad about the things I feel are missing. Sometimes, it's the yearning for these "missing pieces" that keeps me up at night.
I admit that sometimes I wonder about certain trials I have in my life. I realize that while there are some trials or challenges we bring upon ourselves, it is often the bigger challenges -- the ones we don't have control over -- that give me reason to ponder. Do you think that we were predestined to have certain trials as early as the preexistence? I mean, God, being all-knowing... do you think He created us knowing then what we'd be facing now? Do you think perhaps we knew it too, before we came to earth? Sometimes I envision a meeting in Heaven and God asking, "Who is willing to have cancer?" "Who would be willing to forgo children on earth?" "Who will be the one to suffer through a tragic loss or horrible divorce?" "Which of you will agree to no arms or Downs Syndrome?" I wonder how much of our lives here we understood before even being conceived. And if this were the case, that would then imply that we willingly accepted our trials knowing that in the end the blessings we would receive or the lessons we would learn would benefit us in some way.
I realize it sounds strange to think, "what lesson can I learn from suffering through this disease? or the death of a loved one? or not being able to bear children?" But I also believe in the teaching that after the tribulations come the reward. Furthermore, I believe that any trial we suffer here will be made up for once we return to Him after this life. In other words, our endurance to the end will be merit the most glorious reward; one that we cannot even imagine. The trick is to stay the course, to keep fighting the fight, and to find joy in the journey.
I do have a few friends that have told me that they feel fortunate because they really haven't had any monumental trials. To those who fall into that category, I warn, "Don't worry. Your day will come." :)
As I sat in church today my heart was full. For some reason, today it seemed I could glimpse the heart of others more so than perhaps other days. I could see joy in the faces of parents with newborn babies, or soon-to-be-married children. I could see joy in the newcomers for feeling at home here. But I could also see the pain and heartache in others. I could see the hurt that some have perhaps gone through. What can I say? I am a sap. All it takes is to see someone hurting for whatever reason -- ANY reason -- and I feel for them. My heart becomes heavy and my tears start to flow. And one in particular. I saw her pain, and even though I am not in her circumstance, I knew that she was feeling loss and loneliness. I knew that she had feelings of frustration and of self-doubt, and even possibly questioned her self-worth. I could recognize it because I have been there, and at many times still am. I knew that there is that ONE thing that she so desperately wants in her life, but yet she has not yet been granted.
I then thought about my ONE thing. The one thing that is MY missing piece, that often stings my heart. I thought about the ache I have felt and still feel over not having that one thing. I could empathize with her. I don't know that we have ever even had a conversation. But, I knew her heart in that moment.
I then thought about my Savior. If I was given an opportunity to glimpse this girl's heart and to feel her pain and to know her aches, how much more the Savior has felt and how much more He knows. Truly, He has is the one who has already felt everything we are feeling.
That thought brought me back to gratitude. I am grateful that I have a Savior who knows me and loves me. I am grateful that through my trials I have been able to see and receive the love of others. I am grateful that my trials have softened my heart and that through them I have been blessed with the ability to empathize with others.
I have a sister who taught me about gratitude a few years ago. She reminded me that being grateful for the little things is just as important as being grateful for the big things. Because of the example she set for me, I feel I have learned more gratitude. For example, now when I experience those "near-misses" like while driving, I don't just breathe a sigh of relief. I utter a quick word of gratitude to God. It is being grateful for the little things that have helped me have a heart full of grace and to be better able to handle the big things.
I admit, many a times I wonder, "Why AFTER?" Why is it AFTER the tribulation THEN come the blessings? Why can't I just have the blessings first? Of course I know the answer would be because then they would not be recognized as blessings, and I would not have learned whatever it is I needed to learn, nor would I have been strengthened in the way that only enduring a trial can strengthen me. And of course, having trials allows others to realize their potential to offer service, for which I am extremely grateful.
We have natural eyes, which lack the ability to see the end from the beginning. Although I struggle with patience at times, I am truly grateful for many, many things; my trials included. I am also grateful that God allows me to continue to learn and grow in my trials. Do you ever look back at some of your past trials and think, "wow! I got through that!" I think that is part of the blessing or reward. The empowering feeling that we receive by learning that we can do hard things.
I guess today I would challenge you to look at your own trials, past or present, and ask yourself if there has been anything gained by them for which you can be grateful.
Of course, in all of my gratitude, I should mention I am grateful to you! Many of you have offered encouraging words of love and support over the past three years. I am so grateful for that. I am also grateful you made it to the end of this [somewhat] long post! Haha! Now go... go and be grateful!