Tag Archives: gratitude

Grief and Gratitude (a thanksgiving meditation)

I remember the last time that I cried. I was perhaps 10 or 11 years old. We were in a restaurant and I was suddenly overcome with emotion and just started crying. I didn’t know how to explain that I was just overwhelmed and exhausted, so I said something about my food.

My dad was furious. He was definitely of the “stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about” school of thought. He lectured me on gratitude. If I am thankful, then I wouldn’t be crying…

I started to learn how to mask any tears. Tears are always associated in my subconscious with sinful weakness. Maybe one day I will have a breakthrough and learn how to ugly-cry again. I think I might need it.

Anyway, the reason that I am bringing it up is that there is a discussion on Twitter about depression. Someone stated, “Jesus never suffered from depression.”

In order to make that statement, you would have to define depression. If you mean it colloquially, as in, “someone so overwhelmed with grief that they feel like they are dying, then it is easy to demonstrate that Jesus did indeed suffer from that kind of grief”. He was sorrowful to the point of death at Gethsemane.

If, however, you mean the clinical definition of depression, we don’t have the evidence one way or another. He also never got the flu (at least that we know of from scripture) but I am hard-pressed to know what the point is.

I think that the point of the original post is that depression, however you define it, is sin and if someone had proper gratitude then depression will flee away. Just in time for thanksgiving, someone always resurrects the idea that if one is truly thankful in everything, then there is no room for sadness, grief or depression.

Lose a child? Chin up. You can always have another.

Divorce? You’ll find someone else.

Don’t worry. Be happy. Count your blessings.

Be thankful, and all your worries and griefs will be whisked away.

Codswallop.

12 years ago, I lost a child two weeks before thanksgiving. That is a long story, one that I might have the courage to tell one day.

So I want to write this to everyone who is having a hard time counting their blessings this year. I get it. The food tastes like sawdust in the mouth. The painful lump in the back of the throat. The tears that are always threatening, and the subconscious effort to make sure that they don’t burst the dam.

You don’t want to ruin everyone’s thanksgiving. And so you try to be a bit more thankful. If only you would repent of your ingratitude, then you wouldn’t be a bother to anyone else.

Please take this as an encouragement. This world is so, so often a valley of tears. And gratitude and grief often reside in the same breast.

And that’s OK. In fact, that is exactly what redeemed humanity looks like this side of glory. We take up our crosses with him. We cry out with him in Gethsemane. And we remember the joy that is also set before us. It isn’t here.

My dad, who hated any displays of emotion, also would say, “God would not have us be too much at home here.” Our affections are where Christ is seated, at God’s right hand. This is where our thanksgiving is. That God is in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.

The tears will be wiped away. The curse of death destroyed. The presence of God will be with a redeemed humanity, where the lamb is the light and there is no more sea of uncertainty and danger, no more night of weeping and cold sweats and relived trauma.

But today is not that day. Today, we live by faith and not by sight.

Which means that grief and gratitude reside in the same breast.

Let your children cry. Even for no reason. Let your friends and family weep.

Let them be downcast and mourn, for sometimes the weight is so, so heavy. Spend your thanksgiving with friends and family who know how to weep together, as well as rejoice together. This doesn’t mean that they are unthankful. It simply means that they see the gap between the already and the not yet.

They see the gap between Eden and East of Eden, and they are longing – so, so much – to be back home in Eden, where Christ is at the right hand of God.

Doesn’t the bride weep while the groom is absent?

When the groom appears, all tears will be wiped away. Until then, friends, don’t be ashamed of the tears. The groom is coming.

4 Comments

Filed under Thankfulness

Jacob have I loved

2 “I have loved you,” says the LORD. “Yet you say,`In what way have You loved us?’ Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” Says the LORD. “Yet Jacob I have loved; (Mal 1:2)

There has been much ink spilled on this verse in relation to the doctrine of election. In fact, that is Paul’s entire point in Romans 9. I am unabashedly Reformed and hold to the doctrine of election and reprobation as summarized in the Canons of dordt. But I can’t tackle every subject every time I write. So lets assume that one, and look at this verse from another direction.

I would like to analyze the sneering response of Israel. God says, “I have loved you” and you say, “Yeah? Really? How?”

Satan’s first temptation was an attack on the goodness and benevolence of God. “Yeah, hath God said…”

And this is the heart of every sin. God says, “I am good.”

And we say, “yeah? Prove it.”

God says, “I love you”.

And we say, “Yeah? prove it.”

And every time we do, we fall into the same temptation that Adam and Eve succumbed to. I think that this is the primary battle against the flesh that we must war against daily.

It is so prevalent and deadly that the Reformed Confessions, primarily the Heidelberg Catechism, summarizes the whole duty of redeemed man as “gratitude” – embracing God’s goodness.

“Rejoice in all things, and again I say, rejoice!”

So how do you do that when you are in pain? When you are mourning? When you face disappointment and heartache and loss? How do you rejoice always, even in a Roman prison (which is where Paul was when he wrote that).

“Jacob have I loved”.

First, you start with the love of God, beyond all understanding. It is God’s desire that you know him. Not only in words and in theory and in treatises, but in actually experiential knowledge. That you might know his redeeming power, his strength in weakness, his love in a world of rage, his beauty in the midst of ugliness, his glory in the midst of ashes.

And because God loves his people in Christ, he shows us glimpses of his goodness, the amuse-bouche for the wedding supper of the lamb. He gives us just enough of a glimpse in this cursed world that we might long for him, set our affections where he is, and stop glorying in our strength and our wisdom and our goodness.

He gives us those glimpses of his goodness in the midst of the ashes of this cursed world.

The tang and crunch of the apple. Try the Opal, if you haven’t yet.

The brilliant skill of a talented baker of pie (I’m a sucker for good cherry pie. If you are ever south of Yuba City on Highway 99, try Stephen’s Farmhouse. Amazing pie – they can even do gluten free!)

Fresh baked bread and sharp cheese.

The smell of rain on dry ground (petrichor – I didn’t know it had a name until recently.)

The astounding beauty of a skilled musician; the breathtaking scope of art; the curve of the tulip…

The thrill of discovering something new; the kiss on the cheek; snuggling with your sweetie while watching British mysteries; the wine on the back porch around the patio fireplace in the evening…

Far too often we are so busy demanding that God prove his goodness to us that we miss the innumerable proofs that he surrounds us with daily.

Elie Wiesel wrote that Adolph Hitler was the only one who kept all of his promises to Israel. I understand why he thought that, but what a sad statement! God kept every promise to every one of his people, and always has. The problem is not in the reality. It is in our eyes.

“I have loved you.”

“Yeah? Prove it.”

We all do it, because we are in the midst of a cursed world and because we have inherited the sin of Adam. Don’t we all mimic the sentiment of Elie Wiesel when we are at our lowest? God is not good. He does not love us.

But God has not left us there.

“First of all, I love you. I called you out of Egypt. I redeemed you from your misery and sentence of death that you might know me.”

Even in our darkest moments, God is near. He doesn’t abandon us in the valley of the shadow of death. He walks with us.

And beyond that, he did not need to create the world in color. He could have given us food in the form of tasteless paste to keep us alive. What purpose does music serve if the point of life is simply to stay alive?

When we remind ourselves that “Jesus loves us, this I know for the bible tells me so”, from there we will see endless examples of his love and beauty and goodness to mankind.

To paraphrase Calvin, every blade of grass is created that the hearts of the sons and daughters of men might rejoice. The fault is not in the love of God. The fault is in our ingratitude.

Remind yourself of the gospel. Stop being afraid of everything. You don’t catch sin by looking at the wrong thing, or hearing the wrong thing. Your sins are washed away completely. And then look around. See all of the beauty that you are missing?

2 Comments

Filed under Thankfulness