Unlike gratitude, which we will forever owe to the Lord, grief will one day cease to be. Relationships that have been strained for years will know unmitigated love. Wars will cease, heartaches will end. We will know why, but I believe it won’t matter so much in that day, for we’ll have a technicolor view of our great God that will take our breath away.
Most of us have seen at least one of the epic Publix commercials: a young boy invites the elderly neighbor for Christmas dinner, and she comes. A son home from college, busy with friends, waves goodbye to a disappointed but silent mom. Then he changes his plans and sits with her and the last piece of pumpkin pie.
“I’ve been looking forward to this all week,” he says.
“So have I,” Mom replies.
And then there’s the one that kept it real:
Here’s to all the early mornings. To the last-minute surprises. And even to the ones that never made it to the table at all. Here’s to the year the power went out. The year that sparks flew. To the overcooked. The overfed. The overtime. Here’s to the biggest kid’s table on the street. Here’s to the day that might not always be flawless, but it’s always perfect.
Sigh. Cue the Kleenex.
The year that commercial first ran, there was one less person at our table. Six weeks before, my fifty-four-year-old husband died of complications from open heart surgery. “Our Father, we thank Thee for these and all our many blessings, Amen,” wouldn’t do this year. Neither would merely being “thankful for the memories.” As we gathered that day, my brother-in-law choked back tears as he asked the blessing. There was no escaping the deep wound that still bled inside each of us sitting at the table. It wasn’t flawless. It wasn’t perfect. Not that year. Gut-wrenching might better describe it. We took keeping it real to a whole new level. How could we both grieve our loss and give God a heart full of thanksgiving?
Grief and Gratitude Are Deeply Tied
Can gratitude and lament abide together? They must, because the Bible calls us to both. Christ has risen from the dead, but my husband remains in the grave. How do we approach a God who could have chosen to heal my husband, but for reasons known only to Him, didn’t? God isn’t afraid of our tough questions and emotional angst. Our sorrow does not negate our gratitude; rather, it accentuates it.
Grief and gratitude can abide together because they share a deeper emotion—love. Consider the well-known passage of 1 Corinthians 13, with the word gratitude in the place of love:
Gratitude is patient and kind; gratitude does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. Gratitude does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. Gratitude bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Gratitude never ends.